FARMINGTON — The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area was recently awarded a $33,000 grant for the first year as one of seven statewide agencies that were first grant recipients of Volunteer Generations Funds through the Maine Commission for Community Service. A total of $191,675 in funding was awarded to the seven agencies.

The grant will help expand the work of the Franklin Volunteer Network, a collaboration of several organizations that meet monthly and coordinate local volunteer efforts, she explained.

Lisa Laflin, executive director of the UWTVA, and Nancy Teel applied for the grant based on projects that matched the state’s grant goals to develop volunteer initiatives that either work to reduce energy use, improve health or address school drop-out rates and drop-out prevention strategies, Laflin said.

“The Volunteer Generation Fund will assist our communities’ collective efforts to improve people’s lives by offering meaningful volunteer experiences, and by effectively and efficiently getting things done that positively affect individuals and families,” Teel said while accepting the grant on behalf of the UWTVA.

In addition to establishing a part-time volunteer manager position to help coordinate the goals and assist the United Way with development as a volunteer center, three local programs were designated as a focus. The grant will also help create a day-long Western Maine conference on volunteerism and a recognition event for volunteers, Laflin said.

The Volunteer Network will partner with an existing member, the University of Maine at Farmington, to expand Girl Talk Teen Voices, a literary mentoring program available in some schools for young girls and at-risk students.

Grant funds will also help expand the lunch buddy program at Mallett School where community members have lunch weekly with a student to help mentor and connect with the student in an informal and comfortable setting, Laflin said.

The grant will continue the work of the Community Energy Challenge that supplies winterization materials, education and training for local families, Teel said. A total of 300 window-panels, a clear plastic panel frame insert, were made by volunteers and local homeowners this year. The grant will help furnish materials and hands-on training about other energy use and energy savers, she said.

The local United Way along with the six other recipients will support a local volunteer center that provides training and assistance and serves as resource for community organizations that respond to local issues and needs by connecting volunteers and groups and businesses.

The new volunteer manager position will help manage a volunteer database, Laflin said.

“People call frequently wanting to make a difference in the community by giving, advocating and volunteering,” she said.

Research shows the value of the volunteer sector and the benefits to organizations and businesses that support volunteer efforts. There is a return on their investment, she added.

“The United Way sees the power of volunteering and the benefit the community derives from the time people give to make a difference. We’re thrilled to be recognized for our efforts through this grant opportunity,” Laflin said.

The Maine Commission for Community Service was one of the groups in only 19 states to receive funds in the first year of the grant program. Across the nation a total of $4 million in Volunteer Generation Funds has been awarded, according to a prepared statement.

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