Each month, we shine a light on a Points of Light employee who is making a difference in their community. These stories of service highlight the individual volunteer efforts of our dedicated staff, what motivated them to get involved, and how service has inspired them.
Volunteer service is a great way to connect with and improve your community, a chance to help your neighbors and create positive change. As a newcomer to Washington, D.C., in 2006, Shaterri Casteel, project manager for Points of Light’s ServiceWorks program, used service as an opportunity to become more acquainted with the issues facing her new community.
Shaterri moved to Washington as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with College Summit, an organization that helps put high school students across the United States on the path to college and career success. She enjoyed living in the D.C. area so much that Shaterri decided to stay after her VISTA term was over – and she wanted to continue serving.
“I had finally gotten into the groove of regular, day-to-day life in D.C. and I had moved into a new house, so I was just looking for other ways to get involved in the community,” said Shaterri.
After serving as a VISTA, Shaterri wanted to remain involved in the nonprofit sector. Her love for animals inspired her to look for opportunities to give back “in a way that wasn’t interacting with humans like I did every day … I couldn’t have a dog, so I thought this was a good way to get my fix.” She found a good fit with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, an organization dedicated to saving the lives of homeless and abandoned dogs.
Over the course of seven years, Shaterri served in a variety of roles with Lucky Dog. First as a volunteer handler, educating potential adopters about the dogs she handled during adoption events. In her second year, she took on more responsibility as an adoption coordinator.
In this role, Shaterri was responsible for getting dogs adopted that were being rescued from high-kill shelters. She screened potential adopters, scheduled home visits and ran background checks, to make sure the adopters were a good fit for the dog they were interested in.
After volunteering with Lucky Dog for several years, Shaterri transitioned into a marketing and fundraising role, using her knowledge of project management and branding to support the nonprofit’s social media presence, meet their fundraising goals, and build brand recognition in the D.C. area. In this position, Shaterri had a number of duties ranging from volunteer recruitment and recognition to fundraising. And, she became a foster, opening her home to dogs who were waiting to be adopted.
In addition to her active involvement with Lucky Dog, sometimes giving more than 16 hours a week, Shaterri also began volunteering with One Brick, a national organization that creates a social atmosphere around service and encourages volunteers and nonprofits to network in casual settings such as a local restaurant or café.
The variety of positions she filled at each of these nonprofits equipped Shaterri with valuable knowledge about what nonprofits need to function and thrive in the D.C. area. Her long-term plan is to start her own organization that will help small nonprofits that are just starting out in her community assess and address their needs to get on their feet. For example, helping them develop marketing plans or improving their volunteer recruitment strategies.
“When it comes to groups who are starting or just trying to get out there it’s really hard for them to get that support, that buzz,” Shaterri said. “So it’s also a learning process for them, I can help bring in some of the knowledge and tools I have and support them, and also help them grow at the same time.”
The skillsets that Shaterri gained have also been useful in her position with ServiceWorks, a joint program of Citi Foundation, AmeriCorps and Points of Light that prepares low-income youth and young adults for college and careers through service opportunities. As the project manager, Shaterri is responsible for maintaining behind-the-scenes operations, implementing strategies to improve the program, and forming the bridge between leadership and program teams.
Though she was originally brought on to provide project management support, she has also been tapped for her knowledge of volunteer engagement, event planning, and marketing strategies. Shaterri says her experiences helping Lucky Dog grow, as well as cultivating youth development at College Summit, have directly tied into her work at Points of Light, helping the ServiceWorks program develop and better meet youth needs.
Shaterri has made a career out of serving her community and helping nonprofits more effectively attain their goals. Her advice for people searching for opportunities to give back is to select an organization that supports a cause you are passionate about, and find a way to help them while also fostering self-growth.