Volunteer Center a Great Resource for Agencies, Donors

Jeff Sunshine is a man with a personality to match his name. Smiling and soft-spoken, his charming wit can bring laughter and enjoyment to almost any occasion. It's a skill he uses often as the executive director of The Volunteer Center of Alameda County. For more than 25 years, VCAC has been a resource to individuals, non-profit agencies, government, faith and education communities, and civic groups.

"What I like best about my job is working with volunteers because they are choosing to make their communities better places," he says. "Think about it without volunteers out in the community, there would be no senior center visitors, no creek cleanups, and no school tutors. The infrastructure of our society would come to a standstill."

The Center offers a variety of services to area non-profits, none of which is more important than their Clearinghouse Program which links individuals with volunteer opportunities. Last year, over 10,000 people were referred to 450 agencies seeking volunteers, Sunshine said.

Along with matching volunteers and agencies through the Clearinghouse Program based in Pleasanton, the Center is the lead agency for many countywide programs. Adopt-A-Family and Help From the Heart add holiday cheer for families and children; ACCORD for Youth/Americorps has students and youth working part time in schools and agencies on education and environmental projects; Youth Catalyst teaches youth leadership; HEROES recruits, trains and supports volunteers in Oakland schools; and the list goes on and on.

The group's latest innovation in bringing together volunteers and service agencies is their web site at www.volunteeronline.org. The site provides access to a comprehensive database where people can search to find a good volunteer opportunity match. They can then sign up online or call one of the three Center offices in Pleasanton, Hayward and Oakland for assistance or more information.

He sees the Center's accomplishments in many of the programs achievements, especially those for youth. He measures success with young people in reaching out to youth and teaching them the importance of being involved in their community and philanthropy with their time and talents.

"We're also working on outreach to special needs children and adults who want to volunteer and may need a little more help finding a good position," he says.

Youth service projects include outreach programs for the Spring Break project for Cesar Chavez Day, Youth Service Day, The Week of Caring, and Make A Difference Day.

Sunshine said that the Center is always interested in working with corporate volunteers for community-based organizations whether in an existing program or starting a new one. Two major Center fundraisers in the Tri-Valley are A Taste of the Valley held every March and HopFest upcoming on August 4 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

The offices of the Volunteer Center of Alameda County are in Pleasanton, serving the Tri-Valley, at (925) 462-3570; Hayward, serving the south county, at (510) 538-0554; and Oakland, serving the north county, at (510) 419-3970.

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