Make 2019 the Year to Volunteer

Make 2019 the Year to  Volunteer


Did you know volunteering brings physical and psychological benefits all around? The charities and beneficiaries enjoy the obvious philanthropic effects, but when you volunteer your time, you also benefit. Studies have shown that the volunteers feel many health and wellness benefits like lower blood pressure, a greater sense of fulfillment, and stronger feelings of belonging. One study also suggests those who volunteer live longer. Now is the perfect time to get involved.

The Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley brings together a robust and active board of directors as well as strong committee members, program specific volunteers, and more than 50 volunteers who contribute to the organization’s missions annually and sometimes even weekly. As the premier resource provider for more than 350 nonprofits, the Volunteer Center connects volunteers, trainings, and other important resources to empower nonprofit organizations. Annually, the Volunteer Center partners with more than 200 companies and matches more than 25,000 volunteers to opportunities where they can get involved for the greatest impact.

“We are the number one resource to connect our community and to provide resources through programs, events, and trainings that enhance the nonprofits’ ability to support their constituents,” says Karen Smith, CEO of the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley. “We are the volunteer connection.”

Karen Smith came to the Volunteer Center as a prospective board member more than a decade ago, bringing with her a truly aligned background in commercial real estate and regional operations in Philadelphia. Smith served as chair on the board and later worked on staff to fill a role in corporate relationships and programs. Leveraging her talents in natural business development, strategic focus, and collaborative focus, she rose to the CEO role in 2016.

Smith explains that the Volunteer Center expands its core programs year after year. The 2018 Holiday Hope Chests program resulted in more than 7,500 shoeboxes full of items being delivered to children in need in the Lehigh Valley community in connection with more than 32 nonprofit groups. The center’s most recent educational program, LEAD Now, offers hands-on board leadership training and workshops.

Plans for 2019 include the launch of a Youth Council program to further connect area youth to the community, as well as the launch of a resource page for the nonprofit community targeted for April 2019. The Volunteer Center will also work to increase brand awareness and the group’s support base as well as more effectively measure impact in the community through the volunteers and nonprofits involved. The 2019 Challenge celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and expects a record turnout for teams and organizations planning to participate.

“The Volunteer Center is the only resource in our community that has the in-depth reach within the nonprofits, the businesses, and our community to make connections through volunteers that make a difference every day,” Smith says. “We are the hub that provides educational resources, connection opportunities, and industry insights at a minimal cost (or no cost) to the nonprofit organizations.”

National Volunteer Week kicks off April 7 and runs through April 13 to celebrate and promote volunteerism and volunteering in the United States. President Nixon’s Presidential Proclamation established the volunteer week in 1974 and the holiday continues to receive recognition in a new presidential proclamation every year since. Make a difference and get involved as a volunteer or a family of volunteers. Whether for yourself or as youth community service for your children, the act of volunteering pays dividends in feel-good benefits to the organizations as well as the volunteers.


The Volunteer Center publishes a Wish List identifying materials and supplies needed as donations for local charities.

To access the most up-to-the-minute wish list:
  Go to
  Hover over or choose the Volunteers tab.
  Select Wish List.

View the organizations and their needed items or search for a particular group or donation item.

“Volunteer needs and opportunities fluctuate throughout the year and the benefit of our platform allows nonprofits to post current and future needs at all times,” says CEO Karen Smith. 


The first Volunteer Challenge began with just six teams. The event now features an invitation-only opportunity for businesses, and this year’s challenge is set to break records.

WHAT: “In 2019, together with our honorary chair, Eric B. Luftig from Victaulic, we anticipate over 35 companies coming together in support of the community to complete sustainable, life changing projects for 35 unique and distinct nonprofit organizations,” says Karen Smith, CEO of the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley. “The Challenge brings companies and nonprofits together, which creates a sustaining relationship providing volunteers, resources, and financial support to those nonprofits.”

WHEN: Wednesday, May 8, 2019

WHERE: SteelStacks

WHY: “Since the inception of the program we have connected 64 companies with 93 nonprofit organizations for the completion of 150 projects,” says CEO Karen Smith. “The value those projects bring to the nonprofits far exceeds $500,000 of time, resources, and talents to those nonprofits. There is no other program or event that has the impact
that our Volunteer Challenge has on
the community.”

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