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Volunteer NEMS making service connections

Tupelo  If you’ve got the time, Volunteer Northeast Mississippi has the match.

The organization, which operates under the United Way of Northeast Mississippi umbrella, provides a online home for area nonprofits and volunteers to find each other.

“We want to make it easier to connect,” said Rebecca Nelson, Volunteer Northeast Mississippi director. “It’s a partnership with United Way, CREATE and Volunteer Mississippi.”

The Tupelo-based organization is one of five hubs for Volunteer Mississippi. It covers 16 counties in this corner of the state.

“It’s not just a Tupelo thing,” Nelson said.

The Northeast hub was launched about a year ago, and Nelson came on board in January. Currently, there are 36 agencies on the Northeast hub at volunteernems.org. The service is free to volunteers and nonprofit groups, Nelson said.

Each volunteer opportunity on the site includes information about the tasks and the skills needed and contact info for the agency. If volunteers sign up through the site, the nonprofit groups get a list of who to expect. Volunteers get reminders ahead of the event. It also can help track and verify volunteer hours.

Some of the agencies have posted requests for specific events, like an April 27 color run to support Reconnect 4 Autism in Corinth. Others post ongoing needs, such as CATCH Kids, which needs volunteer medical professionals to see children at its community clinics in Pontotoc, Lee and Chickasaw counties, and Talbot House sober living for women in Tupelo, which is holding a toilet paper drive.

In addition to connecting nonprofits in the region and volunteers, the hub will also offer services to nonprofits, Nelson said. On May 23, the hub will offer a board boot camp to help nonprofit leaders function more effectively. The class, taught by the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy, will meet from 9 a.m. to noon in the Carpenter room at the CREATE Foundation office in Tupelo. For members of the alliance, the cost is $69; for non-members the cost is $109.

“It’s open to any nonprofit,” Nelson said.

Nelson also plans to develop a category of volunteer opportunities geared for high school senior projects.

Local connection

Nelson and her husband Andy Nelson both grew up in Tupelo, but moved away as adults. They moved back to Tupelo with daughter Lindsey in 2014. Her parents, the late Jack and Mavis Cristil, instilled in her the importance of giving back and a love for Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi.

“We always knew we wanted to move back to Tupelo,” Nelson said.

In addition to connecting volunteers with opportunities, Nelson sees her role as promoting nonprofit agencies across the region.

“It’s so uplifting to be in an environment where people want to do good things,” Nelson said. “All the nonprofits (in the region) want to do more.”

April 21, 2019- This story has been correct to reflect there is a charge for the board boot camp class.