May 2015 RichmondMom with a Mission: Vanessa Diamond

As parents, we want—we need—to engender a sense of compassion and generosity in our children.

Is there any better way to accomplish that goal than by role-modeling volunteerism ourselves—and when they’re old enough, encouraging our kids to actively help others themselves?

But where can families find those individuals and causes who could best benefit from their time and energy?

Meet this month’s RichmondMom with a Mission—a woman who’s making those caring connections: Vanessa Diamond of HandsOn Greater Richmond.

Vanessa 1 (1)

RichmondMom Cheryl
What is your official title?

HandsOn Vanessa
Director, HandsOn Greater Richmond, Vice-President, Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence

RichmondMom Cheryl
Could you tell us a bit about what you do within that role?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
Currently, my primary role with HandsOn is to collaborate with community organizations, government, individuals, and corporate groups to discuss regional issues and the ways in which volunteers can help address them. This includes connecting the individuals and groups who want to give back with community organizations that benefit from volunteer support, and helping think through meaningful ways to engage. I mostly work on building partnerships and raising funds to support our work.

RichmondMom Cheryl
What was the catalyst that made you decide YOU personally needed to take action?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
When I first moved to Richmond from Portland, Oregon I had a hard time finding volunteer opportunities. I felt like there was something I could do to connect and help others connect and volunteer as well. Two friends and I, who all worked in nonprofit sector, recognized that while there was need in the community, there were few easy entry points for individuals to get involved and make change. We started a volunteer matching program called Activate RVA, which has evolved into HandsOn Greater Richmond. At first in 2007 we had 10-20 people on an email list. Over the past 8 years, we have grown to match over 11,000 volunteers a year to local community organizations!

RichmondMom Cheryl
That’s amazing! What is the ultimate goal of HandsOn Greater Richmond?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
HandsOn Greater Richmond provides a link for individuals, families, teams, and corporate groups to join together and engage in meaningful volunteer opportunities within the Greater Richmond region. We offer unique, fun, and flexible ways to get connected and involved and provide volunteer management resources to the nonprofit sector.

Whether you are 9 or 90, whether you have an hour a day or an hour a month, there is a way to be a part of the solutions we seek for our community.

Onsite

RichmondMom Cheryl 
What do you feel has been accomplished so far?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
We get things done! The HandsOn staff team has grown to 6 full-time staff and several part time and seasonal staff members that support general volunteers, nonprofit training, corporate team building and youth and family volunteerism. We work to help create an easy portal to volunteer, while supporting nonprofits and schools in developing creative and well-run volunteer programs.   Last year we connected over 11,000 people to volunteer opportunities. In addition to connecting individuals to service, we are working with nonprofits, local businesses and schools to help rethink how we can engage volunteers in meaningful work.   I believe we have helped influence and change the way volunteers are seen in our region, allowing volunteers to get involved in new and more impactful ways. Volunteerism is as much about the experience of being engaged and civically connected as it is about the issue and work being done. It is a balance to ensure that both sides of the equation are getting what they need—but when it happens, it is magic.

RichmondMom Cheryl
What makes you proudest personally about your affiliation with the group?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
That we made it happen! When I meet someone new that has volunteered through HandsOn and they have a story to tell about how it has made a difference in their lives, I feel like I am a part of their story. By providing an entry point, we show people how much they can accomplish in 3 hours on a Saturday and they often continue to do great work with a variety of community organizations. I’m proud to spark that interest in others.

VanessaTable

RichmondMom Cheryl
What’s next on-deck?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
One of our big initiatives is focused on engaging youth and families. We are always striving to work with community partners to help create new and unique ways for individuals to get involved.

RichmondMom Cheryl
How can others get involved?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
Easy peasy! We have hundreds of postings for individuals and groups to search, click, and VOLUNTEER at HandsOnRVA.org. There are one-time, on-going, and skills-based opportunities. You can choose what works best for you. We also work with businesses who sponsor events and we help create team building experiences that are focused on community service projects.

One of the quickest ways to get involved on your own schedule is our DIY projects: DIY Volunteering allows families and groups of all ages and sizes to participate in community service from the comfort of their own homes.  It provides a means to engage in volunteering in a non-traditional way. DIY Volunteering offers the necessary tools to become connected with our community in a familiar place and at a convenient time. You can even make a social activity out of it. The Featured DIY will change monthly.  We’ve already done the research and ensured that our partner organizations are on board with accepting the projects created. 

RichmondMom Cheryl
How does your family feel about what you are doing?

HandsOn Greater Richmond Vanessa
I have a 5- and an 8-year-old, and they have grown up side by side with HandsOn. They have been at volunteer projects in their carseats as babies and now can volunteer and be active in the work helping plant trees or load a supply truck with me! When I ask the 5-year-old about my work she says—“…granola, water bottles, people and being awesome.” They 8-year-old thinks I’m “…helping people who need things to make a better place, and you are my Mommy.”   Little by little, they see my office, or co-workers, volunteer projects or special events and I’m proud that they are surrounded by a sense of DOING and of creating what is possible—that is the best gift I could offer them.

RichmondMom Cheryl
What a gift you’ve given us as RichmondMoms, Vanessa. Thank you for your incredible work with HandsOn Greater Richmond, Vanessa…and for being a RichmondMom with a Mission!