For four decades, a group called Center City Churches has quietly done the Lord's work among Hartford's poor and needy citizens. The interfaith agency, formed by a dozen city congregations, has fed the hungry, housed people living with HIV/AIDS, and helped children and families.
But after an intense self-examination, the people who run the agency concluded it could have a greater impact on the community. So, the agency has a new name — Hands on Hartford — and new approach to community service. Hands On Hartford will continue its social services programs, but also offer a new model for community engagement.
It will recruit teams of volunteers from corporations and other places to work on projects that meet community needs. The team volunteer concept, developed by Habitat for Humanity and some others, gets more people involved, offers leadership training and develops team-building skills.
The nonprofit service world is changing. Donors want to get involved, said Hands on executive director Paul Christie. That's a good thing; there's no better way to understand a problem than to see it up close and try to fix it. Many young people look for volunteer opportunities when applying for jobs, so Hands on Hartford could be a recruiting tool for Hartford companies.
The restructured agency will be part of the Hands on Network, an alliance of volunteer organizations that promotes and facilitates community engagement, volunteerism and service learning.
Its founders include Michele Nunn, daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn. Hands on Network recently merged with the Points of Light Foundation, creating what its leaders hope will be a national civic engagement and volunteerism powerhouse.
Hands on Hartford will be formally introduced today at a noontime event at the Bond Hotel. It will feature Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community." The event was scheduled on Valentine's Day to promote civic engagement on a day noted for marital engagements. Nice touch.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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