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Web site matches volunteers, organizations

DULUTH - YourVolunteerPlace.org is social networking with a specific goal: the Web site, created by two Duluth residents, links volunteers and the local organizations that need them.

"It's to foster volunteerism and that's what Kiwanis is all about," said Jim Johnson, president of the Duluth Kiwanis Club and co-founder of YourVolunteerPlace.org along with fellow Kiwanis member Vann Baker. "Kiwanis' motto is we are a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time."

The idea for the networking Web site came about after Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile store managers sat down for a pancake breakfast with the Duluth Kiwanis.

"They thought it would be nice that their employees have an opportunity to volunteer in the community on a regular basis," Johnson said. "And they wanted to know whether we could give them names of nonprofit organizations that they could volunteer at when they wanted to."

The Kiwanis Club didn't have a list to provide or a Web site to which they could direct the managers.

"We said, 'Well, gee whiz, we're a couple of marketing hotshots and we should be able to fix this pretty quickly. It should be fairly easy to put together a Web site where they can match up,'" Johnson said. "So (the site) just came out of a company asking a question and we couldn't solve it without doing something."

YourVolunteerPlace.org provides listings for volunteer opportunities by category, including construction, business development, computers - both technical support and installation - fundraising and nonprofit or social services. Volunteer opportunities are also listed by city.

Organizations can register online at YourVolunteerPlace.org to post volunteer opportunities, search for volunteers with specific skills and receive matches via e-mail.

"A lot of organizations need volunteers or someone to be in an event or to help out with something," Baker said. "(But) there are many, many, many organizations, and I had no idea how many until we started this project, that need specific skills sets, Web site design or maybe an organization needs some help with accounting or they may need help with creating a brochure."

Volunteers can post their skills, find volunteer work and receive notifications by e-mail as well.

On Thursday, five postings for volunteer opportunities in Duluth were online. In one posting, the Foster Children's Foundation was seeking open house volunteers to assist families with shopping for clothing, hygiene products, school supplies, baby products and other essentials for their children.

"It looks like it's going to be great for us posting volunteer opportunities and it looks like it's going to be pretty easy for volunteers to find opportunities," said Mandi Geske, administrative assistant with the Foster Children's Foundation. "That's what we usually see, that it's hard for volunteers to find opportunities."

SideBar: To register

Organizations in need of volunteers and individuals looking for volunteer opportunities can register online at YourVolunteerPlace.org to get connected.