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The New Face of Volunteerism

Charities Channel the Passions of Unpaid Leaders

By Liz Potasek
Photography by John Linn

Diverse Backgrounds

While nonprofits adapt to meet the changing needs of volunteers, they’re also working on how to bring new immigrants into their volunteer forces. The annual immigration rate in Minnesota is triple what it was in 1985, according to MAVA. Latino and Asian populations in the state grew by over 160 percent between 1990 and 2000, while the African population in the Twin Cities boomed by 629 percent during the same time period. 

That demographic shift has forced nonprofits to broaden policies to include the customs and beliefs of other cultures.When Somali men and women started volunteering at the St. Cloud Hospital, the hospital reexamined its dress code to make sure it was inclusive. “We’ve really worked hard to be as open and supportive as we can be,” says Janene Riedeman, director of Volunteer Services at the hospital. 

Nonprofits also value the informal volunteering that takes place outside their doors. “When I look at the Somali community members that I know in the St. Cloud area, they are helping each other all the time with rides, with translation, with connecting people to resources,” said Betty Schnettler, director of partnerships and services at the United Way of Central Minnesota. “They don’t necessarily call it volunteering, but it is, because it’s helping their community members have success and a good life.” 

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