A hefty grant is expected to help the local United Way recruit 60 volunteers for the 16 local member agencies that receive funding from the organization.

The United Way of Franklin County Association recently received $22,137 in matching grant funds from the Kansas Volunteer Commission. The money is expected to help grow the skilled volunteer base available for local organizations.

“The goal is to recruit a minimum of 60 skilled volunteers,” Meg Pearson, United Way director, said. “‘Skilled volunteers’ is a very, very specific definition under this grant. Because we are recruiting skilled volunteers we have to recruit people who have a profession and utilize their professional experience.

“For example, I am creating a committee of human resource people in our community so that, while hiring and laying people off or going through interview processes, we have a resource ... somebody that can review interview questions, make sure that the ads we are running are legitimate and are going to bring the best candidates, sitting in on interviews and using their expertise to decide who should be the next employee for these non-profits. The same things goes for [information technology] and public relations and marketing and accounting and all of these other things for these non-profits that will make them stronger.”

The grant from the Kansas Volunteer Commission aims to expand volunteering by strengthening the capacity of community organizations to recruit, train, manage and retain skill-based volunteers and to develop strategies to effectively use skilled-volunteers to solve community problems, according to a press release by the commission. The grant runs from Feb. 1 to Dec. 31.

Each of the volunteer positions have specific job descriptions and a set number of hours.

“The way I am going to work it out is I am going to recruit the volunteers, manage the volunteers and make sure they meet the needs of our member agencies and finalize whatever projects we assign out,” Pearson said. “I am going to have them sign contracts so it will be like they were essentially employees for us, to where they will do so many hours of volunteer times, and then at the end of their term, if they have a good experience, the idea is that they will do it again next year and that way we have unlimited resources from people who are willing to help them become stronger organizations.”

The Franklin County organizations and agencies receiving funding from the United Way include the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Children’s Mercy Hospital, Communities in Schools, the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance, Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, Hope House, Mid-America Nutrition Program (Meals on Wheels), tiny-k Early Intervention, LifeCare Center for Women, Midland Care Hospice, Ottawa Recreation Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy and Willow Domestic Violence Center.

Pearson is working to organizing groups of volunteers for several different areas with which the agencies will need support, including accounting, public relations/marketing, legal assistance, IT, therapy, human resources and grant writing, she said

“I’ve met with almost all of the agencies to see what needs they have,” she said. “We are forming committees that will help build capacity.”