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Task force proposes web-based Park Rapids Volunteer Network

A small task force hopes to connect community service volunteers with organizations that need their help.

They are considering a centralized website to list volunteer opportunities in Hubbard County.

"We've got a lot of volunteers in Park Rapids. We've got a lot of organizations that want volunteers. Sometimes they connect, sometimes they don't," said Carolyn White, one of the task force members. "Where do you go if you've got time to volunteer?"

The effort to develop a website emerged from the Park Rapids Community Facilitation program, sponsored by the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce over the last seven months. A cross-section of stakeholders have been brainstorming ideas on how to improve collaboration between groups with similar interests and goals, effectively use available resources and increase communication.

Connie Carmichael, another task force member and executive director of Living at Home, invited leaders of local nonprofits to an Aug. 15 meeting to discuss the idea and gauge interest.

Representatives from the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center, Meals on Wheels, the Hubbard County Food Shelf, the Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission, the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and MAHUBE-OTWA attended the meeting.

It would cost roughly $2,500 to develop a customized website and about a $1,000 per year to maintain the database, according to White.

Similar websites exist in Bemidji (www.volunteerbemidji.org) and the Twin Cities (www.handsontwincities.org).

Organizations describe their cause or special event, including shifts, age requirements, registration deadlines, skills or number of volunteers needed.

Each volunteer creates a private profile page, identifying favorite causes, nonprofit agencies, interests or skills. They can search and respond to volunteer opportunities.

The website allows organizations to message volunteers and export a list of responses.

"It will even keep track of volunteer hours," White explained.

The task force is confident they can procure grant money to launch the Park Rapids Volunteer Network, but there would be ongoing, yearly costs to be shared among network members.

"We're still in the beginning stages of getting all of our information so we can figure out if this is something our community really would utilize and the nonprofits in our area would buy into," Carmichael said.

"We want to get an idea how many would use it and how valuable it would be," White agreed.

The goal would be to have a nominal membership fee so it's affordable for nonprofit organizations.

To take part in the brief survey or comment, email parkrapidsareavolunteernetwork@gmail.com.

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