The Volunteer Exchange Referral Specialists (VERS) are dedicated to promoting, supporting, and facilitating volunteerism in Santa Clara County. The nucleus is Referral Services, which connects individual and group volunteers with the organizations and volunteer opportunities that most need them. Every week, 20 volunteer Referral Specialists aid community members in finding the most appropriate volunteer opportunities available. During the past 13 years, 140,000 volunteers have been connected with organizations and volunteer opportunities by the specialists.
Each day, VERS assists potential community volunteers in finding opportunities. The team interviews and then navigates a database of 2,600 service openings with 700 agencies. Next they return to the volunteer several choices that best match the volunteer’s skills and abilities. Last year, they referred over 18,000 people to local service programs.
VERS embraces diversity. Each member of their team is unique in the skills, experience, and talent they possess. They are of varying ages, and some are from different countries. They learn about the United States, the community of Santa Clara and service learning. They do not just connect volunteers with community needs; the VERS team also spends time working at women and children shelters where they prepare and serve food, and clean the kitchen and refrigeration area. They impacted about 200 residents at one shelter and over 150 at another shelter. The team worked at the Emergency Housing Consortium and prepared dinner and collected and donated hundreds of toiletry items for the shelter residents.
The outstanding group of men and women of the VERS make a definite impact on their community. Though they may work behind the scenes, the team fills the gap that exists with the organizations that directly provide important human, educational, environmental and public safety needs. The service provided by VERS bridges the gap of solution and need. Their personal contact methods are an important factor in the success of the program. Since 1987, they have contributed over 56,000 hours of service.