Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
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Volunteers use professional skills for good

Added on Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Here at The Salvation Army, volunteers are our foundation. While you may be quick to think of volunteers serving in our hot meal programs or food shelves, there are many other opportunities available – especially for those looking to build professional skills or apply the skills they currently possess in a new setting.

Below are two such examples of Salvation Army volunteers who serve in surprising ways.

Ron Helgeson

Ron Helgeson uses his 40 years of for-profit business experience in corporate communications, marketing and program development to help The Salvation Army better serve others.

Ron HelegsenAfter recently entering into retirement, Ron went looking for opportunities to lend a helping hand. His search first brought him to our St. Paul Payne Ave. location, where he was willing to take any volunteer opportunity they had. Thrilled by his willingness to help out, Ron was put to work on their food distribution team.

That was a year ago and he’s still there. But that’s not the end of his volunteer story. Not even close.

Shortly after he started, Ron sat down with members of The Salvation Army Volunteer Relations team, who had an interest in the potential value of his skills and experience in a number of program areas. They talked about a few possible fits and, in the end, Ron chose to become involved in a developing initiative called the Ambassador program.

“The Ambassador program is aimed at elevating the quality and consistency of the volunteer experience,” Ron said. “The idea is to match the right volunteer with the right skills and knowledge at the right time to the right project to do the greatest good.”

He now collaborates with Salvation Army staff and other members of a volunteer-comprised task group a few times a month to develop the vision, scope, deployment strategy, process models, and preliminary support materials for the program.

“Part of the win for me is that I’ve had the opportunity to devote time and capabilities to areas where I feel I can have a tangible impact,” Ron said, adding that volunteering also enhances his sense of connection and perspective.

Kat Yushchenko

On the other side we have Kat, a marketing student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

After completing her junior year at the U of M, she found herself in limbo between the end of classes in May and waiting for her study abroad trip program to begin in June. During this five-week period, Kat wanted to build upon her marketing skills instead of sitting idle. However, most of the internships available were requesting candidates who could stay through the summer.

Instead of calling it quits, Kat contacted a Salvation Army volunteer relations staff member named Jennie and asked about short-term opportunities. It worked.

“I had known Jennie already because I volunteered with The Salvation Army before,” Kat said. “So I reached out and asked if there was something I could do to build my experience in marketing.”

After a few conversations and a little planning, she quickly became a volunteer intern for our Division Volunteer Relations team. In her role, Kat was able to refine what she had already learned about survey creation and research methods to improve the way we receive feedback from our volunteers. Additionally, she wrote informational letters that would later be sent out to volunteers.

Kat mentioned that a highlight of her volunteer internship was that she was able to receive immediate feedback on the work she had done, learn from it, and make any necessary changes. “It was a great opportunity that I wouldn’t have received had I not asked,” she said. “I learned that you don’t have to be afraid to approach an organization and ask for work. Let them know what you’re looking for, ask where you could be the most help, and be open to having a dialogue instead of expecting what you are given. You never know what their needs could be and how your skills fit into the bigger picture.”

Your Turn

Ready to get started or try something new? Sign up to volunteer at your local Salvation Army. If you don’t see an opportunity already listed that’s a fit for you, get creative and call us. We’ll find a place for anyone who wants to help.