by Abbie Walker
Since 1994, the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), otherwise known as Volunteer Mississippi, has been about one mission: “To engage and support Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities.”
Headquartered at the R&D Center in LeFleur East, Volunteer Mississippi is responsible for coordinating volunteers and donations after natural disasters, supporting statewide volunteer efforts, and providing training for nonprofits, as well as disaster preparedness. Through Volunteer Centers across the state and by working with local service organizations, Volunteer Mississippi seeks to encourage a culture of citizenship, service and responsibility to our state and nation.
One list Mississippi is always proud to be at the top is in charitable giving. “Mississippians are some of the most giving individuals,” says Volunteer Mississippi Executive Director Monica Ritchie.
Volunteer Mississippi Deputy Director, Caitlin Brooking says many Mississippians view helping others as a lifestyle, rather than organized volunteerism. “Even if people don’t think they’re qualified, if asked, they will help,” she says.
In 2017, Volunteer Mississippi programs oversaw 96,970 volunteer engagements and 1,331,414 hours of service to equal an estimated value of over $32 million. Volunteer Mississippi generates $12 for every dollar invested by the state.
Volunteer Mississippi partners with numerous organizations in the state, including Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi Center for Nonprofits.
But the hands and feet of Volunteer Mississippi is AmeriCorps. From tutoring youth, building homes, serving at Stewpot, or responding after a natural disaster, AmeriCorps addresses the state’s most critical needs and is a way to get Mississippians helping their state, while also investing in their own future.
“I’ve enjoyed working with communities to help them identify what they need and develop a plan to see that implemented while empowering youth,” says Brooking.
More than 15,000 Mississippi residents have served in AmeriCorps since 1994. With over 31 million hours served, AmeriCorps members earned more than 58 million dollars in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, which can be used to further their education. Brooking says AmeriCorps has directly resulted in more people pursuing careers in teaching or other public service-related fields in the state.
Just recently, Volunteer Mississippi held its annual Give Awards to honor Mississippians who have gone beyond in their level of volunteerism. And on June 4th, they will host a reception for AmeriCorps volunteers who have completed their year of service.
As a part of their “Feel Good, Give Back” campaign, Volunteer Mississippi encourages Mississippians to explore their directory of state-wide volunteer opportunities.
“Anyone can volunteer,” says Ritchie. “Whether it’s folding clothes, stocking a food pantry, or reading to children, you can use whatever skill you have to give back.”
“Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them,” adds Brooking. “It’s important to understand what people are going through so you can learn how to help them better.”