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July 9, 2020
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Community service projects for youth in Rohnert Park

  • Honorary Rotarian Bill Thomas is educating youths on graffitiing removal. Photo courtesy of Angelita Esparza

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
January 31, 2020

The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL), a regional organization with the mission to advance nonprofits and volunteerism by strengthening leadership, encouraging innovation and empowering individuals in our community, will be facilitating community service projects in Rohnert Park through their Youth Impact Program. Bringing the program to Rohnert Park is being funded by a $5,000 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program. 

“The Youth Impact Program is in its infancy – we just started this last semester,” says Cesar Basilio, Court Referral Director for CVNL. “We’re planning to do some projects in the city of Rohnert Park area through this grant funding. It will allow us to support non-profit and city-funded organizations, to be able to assist them with volunteer  youth support for projects within the City of Rohnert Park.”

Last fall, youth in the program completed a variety of community service projects, primarily in Santa Rosa. Youth helped during the local fire response by distributing food and supported the Redwood Gospel Mission in the Thanksgiving banquet as well as Christmas dinners with St. Vincent De Paul community kitchen. The youth, ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old, are interviewed from different referral sources, primarily through the Sonoma County Office of Education, and placed with the Youth Impact Coordinator to complete

projects in the community. 

“We’ve had great turnouts [at events where youth volunteers have participated],” says Angelita Esparza, Youth Impact Coordinator for CVNL. “I try to find work that’s more meaningful, heartfelt and restorative to keep them [the youth] engaged and more focused. It’s been great so far.”

Providing supervision to the youth gives them more opportunities to volunteer at different sites and events. It also increases the comfort level for parents and the organizations themselves. 

“This past year has been much more successful with the Youth Impact because of the supervision we provide as well as trying to develop projects where the youth can practice leadership opportunities, develop contacts with different organizations that they normally wouldn’t have and also learn,” says Basilio. “There’s the education piece of learning what the organization does and how it benefits the community. There’s a little more flexibility within the Youth Impact Program to be able to provide that and be able to serve in those projects.”

Not only does volunteering help meet youth’s requirements to graduate from some high schools, get into certain colleges, or meet court mandated conditions, but they also learn valuable skills, leadership, are empowered and build healthy relationships. In some cases, volunteerism can even lead to internship or job opportunities. 

The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, based in San Rafael since 1964, merged last summer with the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, founded in 1972, to better meet the growing needs of nonprofits in Northern California, specifically in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties. 

“We are now one organization serving the North Bay,” says Nora Niesen, Director of Development for CVNL. “We offer an array of programs that support non-profit organizations in many different ways. We’re really a part of the community and appreciate and value that role. We [CVNL and the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County] both did very similar things in terms of running volunteer service programs and also providing training and leadership to non-profits in our respective counties. That’s part of the reason why we decided to merge and combine into one. Sharing resources is better than competing for resources.” 

The organization offers comprehensive programs that support nonprofits and volunteers including training, executive search, customized consulting solutions, volunteer matching and corporate engagement. Heart of Marin™ and Heart of Napa™ events support nonprofits of every size and mission through recognition and cash awards. Other programs and services include the Sonoma Human Race, Secret Santa, Court Referral Program and Volunteer Wheels. CVNL provides disaster preparedness training and serves as an Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC), overseeing spontaneous volunteers and donations for Napa, Marin, and Sonoma Counties in the aftermath of a disaster. 

CVNL is still in the process of arranging which nonprofits will be the beneficiaries of the Youth Impact Program in Rohnert Park. Any local nonprofits that have projects that students can support are encouraged to contact Cesar Basilio at 707.573.3385 or cbasilio@volunteernow.org. For more information, visit volunteernow.org.