Volunteering spotlight: Passion Impact and Friends of The Children

Volunteering is a great resume builder as explained in a previous article from this column. It’s an opportunity to display interests to potential employers and showcase skills like teamwork and initiative, among others.

However, volunteering is not just a source for future reward: It is also a chance to positively reshape character, improve the community and form lifelong connections.

To get an insider’s perspective on the value of volunteering, I interviewed Stefan Peierls, president of Passion Impact. This organization helps students from Franklin High School discover their passions through volunteering.

Passion Impact also hosts volunteer fairs to connect local nonprofits with students and adults within the community.

Peierls said one of the biggest influences on his volunteering career came from his dad’s connection to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. In college Peierls became a “big” and has maintained contact with his “little” to this day.

The role of a big has helped Peierls to understand the importance of volunteering and led him to other passions like forming his own nonprofit here in Portland.

After coming to Portland, Peierls also began volunteering for Portland Ultimate as a coach. It was an opportunity to pass on a sport that was a big part of his life to the young and old. After dedicating months of his personal time as a volunteer coach to Portland Ultimate, Peierls gained a paid position with the organization.

There are several important takeaways from this interview. Volunteering can lead to the discovery of passions that turn into lifelong pursuits, opportunities, or even jobs. Imagine getting to spend every day contributing to a favorite activity or cause.

Forming a lifelong connection to a mentor or pupil is also possible through volunteering, as is evidenced by Peierls’ Big Brothers Big Sisters of America example. That is a relationship that will positively affect life for as long as the connection exists.

Volunteering also gives people the opportunity to form a deeper relationship with their community and the means to become a shaping force. A community is an expression of common culture, passions, interests and intentions. Keep in mind that communities are not just geographical areas like neighborhoods. A group of professionals in the same field is a community, and amateur athletes involved in the same sport can be a community.

A local nonprofit I would like to highlight for opportunities such as these was brought to my attention by Peierls a couple months ago. The Friends of Children seeks to solve generational poverty by connecting at-risk youth with a positive adult role model through volunteering.

These young men and women come from families with the highest risk factors for a variety of debilitating problems. The commitment lasts twelve and a half years, and mentors are actually salaried professionals that the organization calls “friends.”

The youth in this program show impressive results from involvement. There are two statistics on program participants, to this author, that stand out above the rest. Although 50 percent of youth in the program have parents who have been in jail, 93 percent avoid the juvenile justice system. Although 85 percent of these kids are the product of teen parents, 98 percent avoid becoming teen parents.

These statistics alone are enough of a reason to get involved with this organization or similar groups. There are volunteer opportunities for anyone who cannot commit to a position as a friend, and donations have been shown to save seven dollars in government support for every dollar contributed.

To get involved with Passion Impact or The Friends of Children, navigate to www.passionimpact.org, or www.friendspdx.org. To seek related volunteer opportunities, www.volunteermatch.org hosts an online meeting ground for volunteers and volunteer organizations. Look up an organization and get started volunteering today.