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Website Links Helpers, Need

By FULVIO CATIVO, Courant Staff Writer

February 15, 2008

Do you have a group of volunteers who want to help those living with HIV/AIDS? Or an interest in tutoring Hartford elementary school children?

There is now an online tool designed to link volunteer groups with those who are in need of their services.

Hands on Hartford, formerly known as Center City Churches, launched a website this week intending to trigger a new approach to community service. The website www.handsonhartford.org allows teams of volunteers to seek out and connect with opportunities offered through service organizations in the city.

Volunteers can search for projects based on topics and interests, scroll through options and book them as if they were making travel plans.

The hope is to bring together nonprofit, corporate, civic and religious organizations to assist with service projects and help those in need, said Paul Christie, executive director of Hands on Hartford.

At a downtown ceremony in the Bond Hotel Thursday to mark the website's launch, Mayor Eddie A. Perez thanked the dozens of organization and nonprofit agency representatives in attendance for their help.

"Hartford is blessed to have an abundance of groups, individuals who care about the city," he said.

Thursday's ceremony also featured an address and discussion with author and scholar Robert D. Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," in which he argues that decades of declining social connections, relationships and networks have had a negative impact on communities in America.

Putnam expounded Thursday on the benefits and impacts that civic engagement can have on a community such as Hartford and urged the audience to help create more networks, make more connections and contribute to service projects.

Putnam, a Harvard professor of public policy, even gave the audience an assignment to look for and join volunteer opportunities and make service contributions to Hartford over the next two years.

"If it's done right, everybody benefits," Christie said. "This isn't about an organization, this isn't about any of the nonprofits, it's about a movement that's really building in this country."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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