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Volunteers Help Change the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth

January 11, 2013

Teacher or librarian reading to group of childrenIf you take a moment to think about it, you have probably had an adult (or two) who has helped get you to where you are today. It could be a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, or family friend, who in times of trouble or doubt, has been there to give you sound words of advice and ensure that you are on the right track to a successful future.

Unfortunately, not every child is given the opportunity to have a positive, adult role model in their life and are therefore  left susceptible and vulnerable to falling in with the wrong crowd. Thankfully, research demonstrates that mentoring can play a powerful role in preventing substance abuse and youth violence, and increasing academic achievement and the likelihood of attending college.

Most people may not realize that it does not take much to make an impact in the life of child. It is as easy as volunteering as little as a couple of hours a week. Your presence alone makes a difference. You become a stable figure in the child’s life and therefore someone the child can trust to go to for guidance.

Recently, a man approached Trinity Youth Services’ holiday gift-wrapping booth to get a gift he bought for his girlfriend wrapped. It turned out that the man was a former foster child who had been passed around from home to home and faced many adversities as a result. When he learned more about what Trinity Youth Services does for foster children, he shared his own personal struggles:

“It’s just so hard, even as a young adult, to resolve issues from my childhood. My girlfriend gets mad at me sometimes for it, but I cannot help it and I’m still trying to sort through my problems. However, I have gotten a lot better. I just think it’s really awesome what you guys are doing for these kids. They really need it because no one really understands what we go through until you really listen or just be there for support.”

Live United Women in Classroom

January is National Mentoring Month, a time where the importance of mentoring a child is cast into the nation’s forefront. Locally, there are many organizations that strive to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth and they need the help of community members like you to make a difference.

To find a local reading, tutoring, or mentoring volunteer opportunity, please visit our website

Run, Run Reindeer! Volunteers assist in 5K Walk/Run in Ontario

January 3, 2013

With races such as the color run and glow run gaining recent popularity, 5K walk/run races have become a great way for nonprofits and community organizations alike to raise critical dollars and awareness  for their respective causes. On any given month, it won’t surprise you to find one of these races occurring in the Inland Empire. Many of which, look for large groups of volunteers to help them plan and execute the races.

Below is an account from Alex Drey-Mulari, AmeriCorps VIP Fellow for THINK Together who, with a group of volunteers, assisted with the Reindeer Run on December 8, 2012 that benefited the Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars program.


On a dark and frosty morning, before even a hint of sunlight appeared, a gathering of volunteers was happening. They congregated in the concrete fields of the Citizens Business Bank Arena, and huddled around their tents for warmth. Quietly and quickly they donned their jingling antlers and prepared for the onslaught of people that would be coming shortly. They set up the posters, and colored with crayons. They arranged the name tags and gobbled down snacks. Before long the sun was warming the still air, and then they arrived.

With a hustle and bustle the runners arrived, eager to start on their morning quests. The volunteers at THINK had little time, to line them up and pass out the tags. The children were brave to accept such a task, to run a mile or maybe even 3 and 1/3rd. The volunteers cheered as their children took the starting lines. Some of the toddlers could only but wobble, but that did not deter them from entering the squabble. The runners bunched and crunched, and sprinted and shifted. All the while the volunteers protected and kept watch, to ensure their kids would not be crushed!

As they returned round to finish line they found a mass of encouraging people. They hooped and they hollered for the kids as they heaved themselves home. Quite an impressive sight to see such spirit from the children, since I know I could not have done so with such zeal. The children were reunited with proud parents, who showered them in gifts and kisses. As the festivities ended the volunteers were still busy, packing and shoving their work from before. At last the long morning had came to end, and the volunteers left as friends.


Be sure to check out the HandsOn Inland Empire Volunteer Opportunity Calendar to see if there are races in the area that could use your assistance.

For more information on THINK Together visit: For more information on the Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars program visit:

Volunteers Conquer the Weeds during National Make A Difference Day

November 8, 2012

Volunteers work tirelessly to clear the invasive weeds at Victoria Elementary

In honor of National Make A Difference Day, hundreds of volunteers throughout the Inland Empire celebrated by taking action in their communities. Volunteers engaged in a variety of activities ranging from reading to kids to sprucing up local parks and schools, and much more.

Below is an account from Alexander Drey-Mulari, AmeriCorps VIP for THINK Together, about their Make A Difference Day project held at Victoria Elementary School in San Bernardino, California.

Over 60 people gathered at Victoria Elementary on the bright early morning of October 27th. These valiant volunteers came from a wide range of backgrounds, representing a few distinct groups. These groups included: Be Collective, a kind local church group, University of Redlands and their diligent Office of Community Service Learning, Beta Phi Delta of UC Riverside, with over 25 strong service oriented members, and they were led by the amazing members of THINK Together.

Their task was monstrous in stature, a 6500 square foot garden overgrown with massive weeds and teeming with hidden dangers. These volunteers would not waiver despite their momentous task, and moved in immediately to conquer the weeds. Armed with their simple tools of hoes, rakes, and shovels, these volunteers decimated the overgrown plants that were at every corner of the garden. Through sheer force and determination these volunteers pushed past the attacks of insects hidden in the plants, and the numerous plants that prodded and stuck to skin with fury.

Volunteers  from Be Kind, University of Redlands, UCR Beta Phi Delta, and THINK Together pose for a group photo.

Battered and broken, these volunteers gathered the last pieces of the plants, and threw them with victory into the abyss of the garbage bin. The heroes gathered in the new garden to bask in their glorious triumph, and glowed in their pictures with delight. They feasted in the great halls of Victoria Elementary that afternoon, to return home with a full belly and a sense of accomplishment.

No man was happier that day than Alexander, who brought all of these champions together. Alexander knew that all the hard work going into this day was an accomplishment like no other, and as he napped later that day only happiness was in his heart.

AmeriCorps Members Make a Difference in the Inland Empire

September 18, 2012

Throughout the years, Inland Empire United Way’s volunteer program, HandsOn Inland Empire, has had the opportunity to work with amazing individuals who have given a year of their time to serve and address critical community needs through the AmeriCorps program. This year, we are excited to announce that we are continuing the AmeriCorps program, and as a result, have introduced nine new AmeriCorps members into the local community.

Meet our AmeriCorps members:

Sara Clark, HandsOn Corps AmeriCorps VISTA for Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars

Sara ClarkSara Clark grew up in Chino Hills, CA and is looking forward to serving her hometown community.  She recently earned her B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, but has always been interested in education and academic counseling.  As an Americorps VISTA for the Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars Program, Sara will be helping recruit and coordinate business leader presentations for 6th graders and will be aiding in the establishment of a FAFSA completion campaign at Montclair High School.  In her free time, she enjoys the three K’s: knitting, karaoke, and (cooking in) the kitchen.

Lisa Keller, HandsOn Corps AmeriCorps VISTA for Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars

Lisa Keller will be working on the college and university tour portions of the Promise Scholars program. She is excited to work with this program because it fits well with her background in youth services and her passion for serving the community. Lisa graduated from the University of Virginia, and her favorite thing about California is all of the sunshine.

Erin Weaver, AmeriCorps VIP Leader for HandsOn Inland Empire

Erin Weaver grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before moving to East Tennessee to attend Maryville College. She graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Organizational Management and a minor in Political Science.  Erin was accepted into the AmeriCorps NCCC program and was stationed in the Pacific Region for her year of service.  While in NCCC she had the chance to live in Utah, Montana, and various cities in Northern California. After graduating from AmeriCorps, Erin returned to Birmingham to work in the Hospitality industry, but was offered a chance to move abroad. She lived in Greece for 5 months as an au pair for a local family. Upon returning to the States, she decided to look for jobs offering her experience in volunteer management. Erin is now the AmeriCorps VIP Leader at HandsOn Inland Empire.

Anna Capinpin, AmeriCorps VIP for Arrowhead United Way

Anna Capinpin attended the University of California, Irvine and majored in Public Health.  She enjoy reading, learning, and new experiences. Anna is interested in the VIP program because it caters to the community and she wants to take part in the effort to enhance people’s well-being.

Ana Tamayo, AmeriCorps VIP for Foothill Family Shelter

Ana is from a small town in Mexico and moved to the Coachella Valley when she was nine. She recently obtained  her B.A. in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara. She loved my major and has a passion for helping others. When she graduated, she was looking forward to volunteer work rather than looking for a job. AmeriCorps was a great way to combine a job with volunteerism and she really wanted the opportunity. Her future goals are to go back to school and get my M.A. and she is hoping this experience will guide her to a career goal.

Alexander Drey-Mulari, AmeriCorps VIP for THINK Together

Alexander Drey-Mulari is a recent graduate with honors from UC Riverside with a Bachelors of Science degree in Sociology. While at UCR, Alexander loved working in various volunteer areas, including: mental health, addiction, student conduct, and diversity. His strongest passion is for education, and he desires to see a world where all students receive quality education presented in an enjoyable way. Alexander wants to spend this time after his undergraduate career working in the education service field, preparing to use this information to pursue a doctorate in Sociology/Education. He found a perfect match with the Americorps VIP Program working with THINK Together, which serves his own interests in helping all children succeed in school. The AmeriCorps program a national program that engages more than 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups.

Ariel Tolefree-Williams, AmeriCorps VIP for Mustard Seed Tutorial Center

Ariel Tolefree-Williams, grew up in Covina, California. After getting her BA in Public Policy from UC-Riverside, Ariel became interested in non profit work and was interested in helping people more. Currently in her second year as an AmeriCorps member,  working with Mustard Seed Tutorial Center, Ariel is enjoying her time learning more about the education sector of non-profits.

Clifford Held, AmeriCorps VIP for 211 San Bernardino County

Clifford Held graduated from Humboldt State University in 2007.  He earned a BA in International Studies and a 2nd BA in Spanish.  After studying abroad in Mexico for a year, he served for over two years in the U.S. Peace Corps in Guatemala.  Clifford now serves United Way 211 as an AmeriCorps VIP and is studying to become a bilingual US Court Interpreter.

Jasmine Coleman, AmeriCorps VIP for Trinity Youth Services

Jasmine Coleman received her B.A. in Art from Azusa Pacific University in May 2011. With her year at Trinity Youth Services, she plans to implement a sustainable tutoring and mentoring program to help enrich the lives of the children in their care. Prior to joining AmeriCorps, Jasmine has always had a love and passion to help and serve others in local communities, through different aspects of volunteerism. Her favorite hobbies include painting, cultural learning, traveling, cooking and various outdoor recreation activities.

AmeriCorps VIP: Lessons Learned from a Year of Community Service

July 31, 2012

Allan, Meghan, and Denise provided me with tremendous support during the challenging AmeriCorps year.

Just about one year ago I joined AmeriCorps, committing myself to twelve months of full-time community service through HandsOn Inland Empire / Inland Empire United Way. At the time I had a general idea of what to expect: volunteer recruitment, project management, volunteer leadership, etc. What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about broader topics—about teamwork, community, and the spirit of helping others. As I conclude my term of service, I want to highlight just a few of the lessons I learned during my year as an AmeriCorps member.

1) Everyone Can Make a Difference. Rich, poor, young, old, urban, suburban, human, animal—everyone can make a difference! In Redlands, I met a woman who brought her dog to volunteer with her at several projects. (The dog wasn’t much of a painter, but he did wonders for volunteer morale.) In Fontana, I watched a baby help dig a hole so his parents could plant a small plant. In Pomona, I met a retired couple who travel the country looking for ways to volunteer. Everywhere I looked, I saw real people making a real difference.

Dozens of UPS volunteers dedicated this particular Saturday to cleaning up Sylvan Park in Redlands, CA.

2) The Community Cares. I can’t count the number of times or the variety of ways I saw members of the community helping each other. Over and over, I watched as hundreds of corporate volunteers, oftentimes from directly competing companies, teamed up to beautify local parks and schools. Across the Inland Empire, I met teens from high schools like Los Osos and Lehigh who gave up their afternoons or weekends to pitch in and help make their communities better places. And I met representatives from more awesome NPOs doing amazing work than I ever imagined! Truly, this year opened my eyes to the power of caring communities.

Students and parents from Montclair High helped plant gardens at local Lehigh Elementary School.

3) A Good Support System is Invaluable. As much as we might sometimes like to think so, people aren’t supposed to do everything alone. We need help. Watching Inland Empire United Way support underprivileged kids, seeing my fellow AmeriCorps members do great things through other local non-profits, receiving help from my fellow HandsOn Inland Empire staff on challenging personal projects—all of these illustrated to me the value of a good support system. To one degree or another, we all need each other.

4) To Give, Advocate, and Volunteer is to Live United. Wherever you live, there is undoubtedly an area of community need. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s mentorship. Maybe it’s education. By giving back to others—in time, in money, or by simply spreading the word—we all can do our part to make the world a better place. Those are the ways in which we can, and should, Live United.

Thank you to IEUW, HandsOn Inland Empire, AmeriCorps, and volunteers everywhere for helping me learn these lessons. Without a doubt, I am a better person for it.

– Bryan Nakawaki  AmeriCorps VIP Leader 2011-12

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!

5 Great Reasons to Become a Volunteer!!!

June 13, 2012

There are tons and tons of great reasons to volunteer. How many more can you think of?

The first official day of summer is right around the corner, and with it comes a wealth of different ways to spend your time. From tanning on the beach to enjoying the rides at your favorite theme park, summer is a popular time to indulge in life’s most pleasant pastimes. So why, when there are so many other things to do with your time, should you ever consider becoming a volunteer through HandsOn Inland Empire? Here are five great reasons:

Because You Have a Talent. Maybe you like to cook. Maybe you’re an avid gardener. Maybe you spend your time knitting. Whatever your talent is, HandsOn Inland Empire can help you find a volunteer program that makes the most of your special ability. And if there’s no program immediately available to take advantage of your abilities, we can help you develop a brand new one!

Because Like-Minded People Really Want to Meet You. Volunteering with any of the programs on HandsOn Inland Empire’s volunteer opportunity calendar will give you the chance to meet civic-minded individuals just like yourself. Depending on the program, they may even have similar hobbies to you. Why not get out there and make a few new friends?

Because It’s Valuable Professional Experience. In today’s economy, it can be hard to find experiences truly worth listing on a résumé. However, many employers look highly upon applicants who have dedicated themselves over time to volunteer efforts. Even better? Become a HandsOn Inland Empire Volunteer Leader! The leadership experience that comes with being a volunteer leader is also frequently looked upon quite favorably by prospective employers!

Because You’ll Learn Something New. HandsOn Inland Empire volunteers often report learning new things as a result of their volunteer involvement. Volunteer cooks share recipes, volunteer knitters learn new patterns or try new types of yarn, volunteer readers gain exposure to new types of books. The list goes on and on! Learn something new today!

Because It’s Not About You. The most popular reason for volunteering is also the best. Volunteering your time helps to support the needs and affirm the value of the thousands of local citizens who are in need of assistance. Whether their need is food, clothing, shelter, or any of a wide variety of other things, you are in a position to help make the lives of your fellow community members a little bit easier. Help bring a smile to someone else’s face today!

To find a volunteer opportunity today, please visit HandsOn Inland Empire’s volunteer opportunity calendar at:

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