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Strength in Service - Omaha Serves

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The plan is an extensive one, but in a nutshell, Omaha Serves will help Omahans connect to service opportunities while creating volunteer opportunities targeting the city’s most urgent needs. It will offer support to existing non-profit organizations and public agencies to facilitate a more efficient use of volunteers as well as assessing the effectiveness of its programs.

So what does this mean exactly? Omaha Serves is pairing up with the United Way, challenging Omaha citizens to commit to service. Case-Penrod likens this to health challenges that call on participants to make small changes- take the stairs instead of the elevator, eat one additional fruit a day, go to bed 30 minutes earlier- that reap huge collective benefits. Likewise, the service challenge asks citizens to consider small ways they can change the landscape of their neighborhoods.

Small acts requiring little or no time are easy to incorporate into busy lives. Area shelters are always in need of coffee, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. When you are doing your weekly shopping, pick up an extra container of coffee, bottle of bleach, or package of razors. Keep a little stock pile in your basement and then deliver your donation to an area mission. Invite your friends to do the same.

Or simply check in with an elderly neighbor to see if she needs anything at the store before you go, suggests Case-Penrod. You can affect change without donating large sums of money or investing large blocks of time. If you are looking for a more formal method of volunteering, consult the United Way’s website. It offers an online matching tool that pairs volunteers’ interests and availability with area service opportunities.

In addition to connecting volunteers with existing programs, Omaha Serves is launching three new volunteer opportunities: My Community, Our Children; Lemonade Days; and Neighborhood Revitalization. My Community, Our Children is a mentoring program which seeks to recruit 500 new, diverse mentors for area youth.

Case-Penrod says the typical mentor is a middle-aged, white woman with a college education. My Community, Our Children hopes to expand the mentor profile to include more men and different age and economic backgrounds.

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