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HandsOn Inland Empire Hits Chicago for National Conference on Volunteering

July 3, 2012

With the main stage of the conference’s opening ceremony in the background, HOIE’s Meghan, Denise, and Bryan take the opportunity to snap a quick picture.

Between June 17th and 20th, the HandsOn Inland Empire team attended the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago, Illinois—an event that proved hugely educational for all of us involved! Over the four-day period, we were lucky enough to attend sessions discussing service-learning, disaster preparedness, best practices in volunteer management, emerging social media tools, youth engagement, upgrades to the HandsOn Connect volunteer management system, and a variety of other informative and useful topics.

Entering the conference, each of us had a specific topic in mind we were hoping to learn more about. Allan Collins, HOIE’s Director of Volunteerism, was looking for new and innovative ideas to integrate into our volunteer programs. Meghan Meade, the department’s Volunteer Program Manager, hoped to expand her knowledge of best practices in volunteer and non-profit management. Volunteer Program Coordinator Denise School, meanwhile, was interested in meeting other HandsOn affiliates, learning about how they manage their programs, and discovering new best practices in social media use for non-profit organizations.

Bryan takes a picture with Israel Idonije, defensive end for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and the founder of the Israel Idonije Foundation.

As for me—I was most interested in learning about service-learning and how to best go about integrating it into K-12 education. As a future teacher, I am always looking for service-based ideas to possibly integrate into my future teachings. I also was excited to learn about some of the great non-profits operating around the country that I didn’t know very much about before. A great example of this was the Israel Idonije Foundation, whose work I learned a lot about in a small meet and greet with Mr. Idonije himself.

After each day of the conference, we also tried to immerse ourselves in the city, visiting iconic landmarks (Willis Tower, Soldier Field, the Cloud Gate sculpture), watching some of the local sports teams, and tasting the city’s signature pizza and hot dogs.

Bryan, Allan, Meghan, and Denise pose in front of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as “The Bean.”

Both culturally and practically, the conference offered us a tremendous chance to grow as people and as non-profit workers. To say that we now feel more prepared to lead volunteers and engage citizens in acts of volunteerism would be an understatement. We also feel more knowledgeable about the challenges our nation faces and how we, as a team, can combat them.

For everyone that had the opportunity to attend, this conference was nothing short of an incredible experience. As for us at HandsOn Inland Empire–we cannot wait until next year’s conference, where we hope to learn even more best practices to maximize the efficiency of volunteerism in the Inland Empire!

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