United Way and Office of Emergency Preparedness increase community engagement by launching “Get Connected”
(July 25, 2013 - Opelousas, La) – By creating a venue that both allows individuals to see the many ways they can make a difference and agencies to promote their needs, the United Way and Parish Government have found a common solution that will increase the potential for volunteerism, donations, and involvement in the community. In July, nonprofits and charities in the St. Landry and Evangeline parishes began posting their volunteer and other needs online in hopes of increasing the opportunities for community members to get involved. The online system, which is administrated by the United Way, is called “Get Connected.”
“When I learned about this program, I first thought about our 22 funded agencies and their volunteer needs, but soon realized the potential benefit of a “virtual” volunteer center could be extended beyond the non-profits, particularly for emergency and disaster relief,” stated Ginger LeCompte, Executive Director of St. Landry-Evangeline United Way.  She approached St. Landry Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to see if there was an interest in partnering.
Get Connected will do more than just create matches among the non-profit community and private citizens; it will also help recruit and maintain a registry of volunteers wanting to help during disasters.  In either case, this “virtual” volunteer center will help connect volunteers to community needs.
Lisa Vidrine, Director of St. Landry Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness,  is excited about the Get Connected program.  “We’re in hurricane season now, and as is often the case, when we need volunteers, we are scrambling.  This system will allow people to go online and register, indicate their interests, time they are available, and special skills and training.  Their information is immediately relayed to the agency(s) in need, and communication begins between the agency and the volunteer.  It’s a win-win for all of us.”
According to LeCompte, it may be possible for other agencies to register on the site, such as volunteer fire departments.  Each participating agency must be approved by the United Way before their page is made public, but participation is free to the agencies.  Approved agencies will “build” their own page and update it as needed, listing needs, special events, and information.  Citizens or even tourists wanting to volunteer will have a very user-friendly experience as they register.  “It will take a few weeks to fully complete the site, but people can go to the site now and begin registering,” states LeCompte. 
Opportunities listed online will include a variety of needs, such as donations of goods and services, mentoring, tutoring, helping with special events and projects, committee or board work, and much more. Users can go to to start their volunteer experience.