Identifying activities for volunteers and service members with disabilities

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Persons with disabilities, like all potential volunteers, have unique talents to contribute to service organizations and seek opportunities to serve. In September of 2000, with funding provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Points of Light Foundation initiated a project to learn how to effectively engage persons with disabilities as volunteers. In many instances, volunteers with disabilities reported that this was the first time that they had been asked to serve. This effective practice describes eight types of service activities participated in by volunteers with disabilities on service days. Materials for this effective practice are excerpted from Point of Light's 2002 "Evaluation Report: Engaging Persons with Disabilities in Service."

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Identifying appropriate activities for volunteers and service members with disabilities.

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Some ways in which volunteers with disabilities have served include:
  • Participants in an Easter Seals adult day care facility worked with other volunteers to make costumes and groups for a local theater. (Martin Luther King Day, 132 volunteers)

  • Painted wooden tables and signs for a children's garden at a local non-profit. (National Volunteer Week, 208 volunteers)

  • Made wheelchair accessible garden boxes for a school serving persons with sight impairments. (National Youth Service Day, 574 volunteers)

  • Painted a large mural on the playground blacktop at a charter school for homeless children. (Join Hands Day, 243 volunteers)

  • Assisted older citizens in preparations for the upcoming winter by raking leaves, mowing lawns, and cleaning windows. (Make a Difference Day, 600 volunteers)

  • Cared for animals waiting to be adopted at the local Humane Shelter. (National Family Volunteer Day, 128 volunteers)

  • Sorted donated food at the local food bank. (Day of Caring, 132 volunteers)

  • Participated in a graffiti clean-up activity. (Miscellaneous service, 881 volunteers)

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These activities were initiated as a result of a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to the Points of Light Foundation to study how to effectively engage people with disabilities as volunteers and to create inclusive days of service. Volunteers' disabilities included cognitive, visual, hearing, emotional, learning, mobility, and seizure.

The Points of Light Foundation, founded in 1990, is a national non-profit organization that engages more people more effectively in volunteer service to help solve serious social problems.

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Points of Light Foundation. "Evaluation Report: Engaging Persons with Disabilities in Service." (2002)

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Individuals with disabilities have often been viewed as recipients, not providers of service. The 2001 Engaging Persons With Disabilities Initiative resulted in 2900 volunteers with disabilities participating in service days through 22 Volunteer Centers and with the assistance of 59 local partners. Information for the report was gathered through a series of technical assistance conference calls and structured telephone interviews with sub-grantees as well as written reports submitted by sub-grantees to the Points of Light Foundation.

As more opportunities to serve are made available to individuals with disabilities, there are greater numbers of volunteers in the service community; an awareness of the capability of disabled persons; and an increase in the self-esteem and personal growth of disabled individuals that is a typical outcome for those who engage in service.

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August 30, 2002

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For More Information

Points of Light Institute
Phone: (404) 979-2900

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Related Practices

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Related sites

United Cerebral Palsey Associations/Access AmeriCorps

Topic Areas

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