Volunteering made easier with kidServe

January 26, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

When University of Washington Project Management students were told they’d have to successfully manage a real project — for their grade — they were ready for the challenge.

Instead of simply finding something to do, a group of five classmates, including an Issaquah mother, decided to form a nonprofit organization, called kidServe Seattle, to better the community.

“I was having a conversation with some friends at a dinner party last spring and a lot of us were thinking that we wish we could find volunteer opportunities without having to call every single organization,” said Bellevue resident Rachael Podolsky. “It would be great if there was a Web site where everything was in one place.”

When Podolsky started classes she brought up her idea again; this time, she quickly found others to help.

“I searched for five hours one night,” said classmate and coordinator Shannon Farrell. “I even tried using different search techniques. I just couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything out there.”

Quickly, the classmates began putting the pieces together to form the nonprofit, a Web site that helps parents with children ages 5-12 find community service projects and volunteer opportunities they can do together in the Puget Sound area.

By visiting kidServe Seattle, families and children can learn about volunteer experiences that are age appropriate and of interest to the child. KidServe Seattle will offer volunteer experiences in five categories: animals, arts, civic, environmental, and health and wellness.

“I was interested in kidServe Seattle because I have two sons in elementary school at Grand Ridge Elementary,” in Issaquah, said classmate and coordinator Tiffanie Wilhite. “I wasn’t able to find opportunities for us to volunteer together.

“As parents, it’s important to teach our children all aspects of life, whether that’s riding a bike, tying their shoes or volunteering,” she added. “And volunteering is a lot like riding a bike — if they learn to do it when they are young, they’ll know how to do it as adults.”

The project’s five coordinators – Podolsky, Wilhite, Farrell, Jay Hinds and Cyndie Tarr – helped create the organization’s structure, Web platform, partnerships and marketing tools to share with the local community. They have applied for nonprofit status and are waiting for the government to approve it.

Though they only began in October, they’re ready to have their first big parent-and-child volunteer activity in Issaquah Jan. 30.

KidServe Seattle coordinators are hoping the Issaquah community will take up their challenge to raise necessity items and food for the Ronald McDonald House pantry.

Coordinators are asking parents to take their children grocery shopping to pick out the items they think will help the Ronald McDonald house, and then drop the items off at Caffe Ladro in the Issaquah Highlands from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“If people like what we’re doing, we’d like them to help us,” Farrell said.

If parents and children like the activity and the mission of kidServe Seattle, coordinators would appreciate a donation of $15 to help them finish launching their services, which will also help them make the grade.

By March, coordinators hope to have the five, or more, volunteer opportunities for families on the Web site. Month by month, they hope to generate more opportunities targeted at several age-appropriate levels for children and their families.

At first, coordinators will help facilitate volunteer activities by attending themselves, but later, families should be able to contact the organizations to book volunteer times or just show up.

It could be as simple as helping sort cans for the local food bank, as messy as a park cleanup or as difficult as helping out at a local zoo, Farrell said.

At the heart of each volunteer opportunity though, there is a chance to live the organization’s mission, “to promote volunteerism for children and their families through social, civic and environmental charitable experiences in the local community,” and in turn, make the community a better place.

Though their coursework with the university ends in May, Farrell said, several of the team’s members, including Podolsky and Wilhite, are committed to remaining on the project to ensure it keeps running.

Because so many of the coordinators want to see the project grow, they are asking for area organizations with meaningful volunteer opportunities to send them information to book on their calendar.

If you go
Necessity and food drive
benefiting the Ronald McDonald House pantry
11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Jan. 30
Caffe Ladro, 10th Ave. N.E.
On the Web

If you goNecessity and food drive benefiting the Ronald McDonald House pantry411 a.m. – 3 p.m. Jan. 304Caffe Ladro, 10th Ave. N.E.
On the Web4www.kidserveseattle.org

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