Volunteers provide a vital link

CORPORATE volunteering in the community is gaining momentum thanks to non-profit organisations such as United Way that facilitate corporations and individuals to donate money, time and resources to support worthy community projects and groups. United Way in Western Australia is part of a national network of local, independent organisations that focus support to a number of grass-roots charities, many of which lack the capacity to raise funds themselves. United Way chief executive Rosemary Peek said the organisation had been operating in WA since 1987, with the number of volunteers offering their services now so great that United Way did not have the resources to place them all. United Way’s Corporate Connect program organises team-based volunteer days for between 10 and 60 business people, getting them out of the office and providing much-needed services such as garden makeovers, painting and decorating, mentoring and community barbeques for United Way partners, of which the Activ Foundation is one. Ms Peek said United Way put together a complete package for volunteers by mapping out the project, consulting with volunteers about required duties, educating them on the particular charity, dealing with any occupational health and safety issues, organising insurance and meeting with volunteers on the day. As part of its own Community Reach program, air-conditioning company Fujitsu Australia recently joined with United Way and, with assistance from a horticulturalist, spent two days creating a new backyard at an Activ group home, one of 130 residential-care facilities across the state for people with disabilities. The team donated time and funds to clear out a back garden, establish new garden beds, plant trees, create a vegetable patch and tidy up the outdoor areas. Activ Foundation marketing coordinator Hamish Miller said the group homes have live-in support staff who provided day-to-day care to people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Staff did not have the time to add gardening to their duties, however. “We need more volunteers to assist staff with service provision within homes as well as IT people to clean computers and more event support for our City to Surf fun run and Hat Frenzy days,” he said. Besides volunteering, business can become involved with charities via the federal government’s Workplace Giving initiative, of which United Way is an advisory partner. Workplace Giving is a simple way for employees to regularly provide funding to charities or organisations that are entitled to receive tax-deductible donations. Ms Peek said organisations could nominate a preferred recipient or a number of community partners, or could give a lump-sum each pay cycle to United Way, which will channel the support towards specific projects that have a direct and tangible impact on the local community. “Workplace Giving is growing more and more, and through United Way the money stays in WA and helps more than 150 of our community partners to establish programs and expand them,” she said. United Way also conducts due diligence on the projects and organisations it supports to ensure funds reached their intended destination and employees can remain confident in the process.

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