Sometimes, volunteering means hard physical work, such as delivering boxes of food to the hungry, shoveling snow for shut-ins or doing clean-up work at disaster sites.
For Steven Sunday of Cape St. Claire, Md., who’s 71 and has been forced to slow down due to health reasons, it means using his technology skills to post and coordinate schedules for multiple volunteer groups doing every imaginable type of community service. He also does plenty of ongoing site clean-up – of the web variety.
Sunday, who worked in information technology at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., for 36 years, wanted to keep busy and do something productive when he retired in 2010.
These days, a common way to learn about volunteer opportunities is to search online, and that’s what Sunday did. He came upon the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center’s website and applied to become a volunteer. The volunteer center, which goes by the acronym AACVC, coordinates community service for nearly 400 nonprofit groups in the county.
But the AACVC ‘s small staff jumped at the chance to ask Sunday to do them a favor: they’d been wanting to improve and expand the center’s website.
“I was doing some of it myself, but we just limped along,” says Bill Crabb, a part-time staff member at AACVC. “It was just a more or less workmanlike website before he came. Now he takes pictures at events and puts them together into slideshows. He’s come up with graphics that are attractive. We have a lot of things on the website now that we didn’t have before.”
“I took my experience with me,” says Sunday, of his now continuous volunteer work at the center. “At the Naval Academy, I was designing websites, using HTML code and different tools. “
Sunday ended up liking his work for the AACVC so much – he hit it off especially well with Crabb, who is also a retired Federal employee – that he’s continued to volunteer at the center’s office four days a week ever since – saving the center an immeasurable amount of money by not having to hire another person or outsource the web upkeep work.
One website feature Sunday is especially proud of is one of the first things visitors to the AACVC website see: a revolving window on the home page that advertises special events.
“I do a lot of linking to YouTube,” says Sunday, who added an entertainment page, called the Fun Page, to the site. “I’ve also added more heartwarming things, too.”
It was Sunday’s idea to add galleries of photos taken at volunteer sites and special events around town.
But Lisa Spalitta, AACVC’s executive director, says Sunday diligently updates the nitty-gritty components of the website that helps the center match community volunteers with needs.
For example, Sunday updates an online calendar. Visitors to the site can click on a date to see volunteer opportunities occurring throughout the county. They can click further for more information and to be linked to the website of the organization in need of help, whether it’s a homeless shelter, literacy group or an agency that works with senior citizens.
Another highly effective online tool that promotes community service in Anne Arundel County is an interactive box where viewers can enter their ZIP codes and keywords that reflect their interests or skills, to narrow their search for compatible volunteer opportunities. Viewers can also browse hundreds of nonprofit organizations.
“Steve helps many organizations to get their listings on our website so that people can find them,” says Crabb. “A lot of people don’t know how to post information online, so we have to work one-on-one with them.”
In addition, Sunday works “behind the website” to help the center use a workforce program to sign up volunteers and coordinate them with participating agencies.
Sunday’s volunteer work frees up the AACVC’s tiny staff to do other duties.
“It would be impossible to keep this up without him,” says Spalitta. “He jumps on everything that needs to be done. Our website is where we direct everyone to get to know us and to find opportunities. It’s where nonprofits go to post their volunteer needs. Without that website, we couldn’t connect to anybody really.”
But Sunday looks at it differently.
“This place literally saved my life,” says Sunday, who has been widowed for years and who recently lost his mother. “I’m not a gung-ho person. I’m not a volunteer freak. I’m surprised they’re making such a big deal out of it. If I’d stayed home, I would have rotted over the past five years. You have to have something to do with your life.”
By using skills he’s comfortable with and enthusiastic about, Sunday says, “I feel I contribute in my own way.”
“This place keeps me young – well, maybe not young, but it keeps me active,” says Sunday, with a laugh.