In July 2003, Linda Rondinelli gave up her job as a Marketing Analyst to do full-time community service for a year as an AmeriCorps* VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) with a barely livable allowance. She chose SAHELI, an 11-year-old-all-volunteer, support, and advocacy organization for underserved Asian victims of domestic violence in Austin, Texas for her community service.
Community needs and solution: SAHELI had exceeded its capacity as an all-volunteer organization and badly needed two full-time paid staff to attend to the immediate and long-term needs of the victims, make community presentations, participate in collaborative task forces with other nonprofits, and recruit, train, support, and coordinate volunteers. Linda was determined to find a way to meet this need. She researched and selected appropriate funding sources, wrote grant proposals, collected data, obtained support letters, and coordinated all activities related to securing grant funds. Because of her efforts, in the past year, SAHELI has been able to secure funding to hire its first two staff members: a Family Advocate and a Community Educator.
Connection building: Linda built relationship with nonprofit consultants, foundations, government agencies, information centers, and other nonprofit organizations. She connected with volunteers and made sure that data collection could be made easier. She redesigned the contents and format of the SAHELI website to make it easy to read for victims, volunteers, and donors. She helped with event planning, and information booths connecting with the community. She also volunteered as a legal advocate with SafePlace helping battered woman get protective orders to connect with the victims’ needs.
Ongoing involvement: Linda started volunteering with SAHELI before her VISTA contract officially started. She took a six-week course at the University of Texas to learn the skills needed for writing grants. She has worked with pleasure for long hours, evenings, and weekends during her VISTA year. She extended her VISTA term to help SAHELI implement the grant and recruit staff. After finishing her VISTA term, Linda continues to volunteer as the Secretary of SAHELI Board of Directors and a newsletter editor.
Impact: Because of Linda’s hard work and excellent research and writing skills, SAHELI has received a foundation grant for $15,000, a federal grant of $5,000, and an annual state grant of $80,000, renewable up to three years. SAHELI can now sustain and expand its services to help underserved victims of domestic violence and educated the community. Linda’s energy, passion, dedication, teasingly long and always updated “To Do” lists for the team, and her contagious laugh has energized her colleagues.
Innovation: Linda has shaped SAHELI’s strategic planning and presentations for Board success. She made valuable suggestions for funding success and back-up planning. Linda redesigned our forms to make data collection easier. SAHELI’s website was cluttered and hard to use and she redesigned many frames of the website. She learned Dreamweaver and other tools needed to maintain the website. She also developed internal working documents for the Boards smooth operation.