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Volunteer Spotlight: Nicole VanGorder

Nicole VanGorder

Nicole VanGorder

Age: 28

Company: Upstate Special Needs Planning

Position: Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer

What organizations do you volunteer with?

Current involvement includes: WXXI & The Little Theater Board of Trustees; Villa of Hope Board of Directors; Mental Health Association Board of Directors; YMCA Leadership Ambassador; Founder of The Social Exchange, a monthly social meet up for young adults with special needs.

Previous involvement includes: St. John Fisher College Alumni Board Chair, Al Sigl Walkabout Committee, WIFS (Women in Financial Services) Vice Chair, Rochester Young Professionals, RocCity Coalition, YEA! Business Mentor.

What has been your favorite volunteer experience?

I was a mentor to a child at the Villa of Hope. It was one of the most meaningful experiences I have had. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to see and experience Rochester through a different lens.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I am lucky to be part of so many different mission-driven organizations that are making an impact in our community. I enjoy the process of problem solving. Nothing makes me happier than when I can identify a problem and help an organization move to a solution. Even if the solution makes a difference for only one person I think it is worth it! Additionally, I love meeting new people and getting to connect with individuals I may have otherwise not met! I feel volunteering is a great way to invest in the community and in yourself.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start volunteering?

If someone were looking on where to “start” volunteering I would suggest considering a few things first. “What are you passionate about?” “Why do you want to volunteer?” Also, being honest about what type of time or monetary commitment you are willing to give. I am not one to do something unless I can commit 110 percent. Another way to get involved is to simply put yourself out there and try things! The RBJ publishes a Charitable Events List each year and it makes finding volunteer info easy. The list includes a description of the event and notates whether or not there are volunteer opportunities/who to contact.

What would you say to somebody who has not considered becoming a volunteer?

I would say “why not?” I truly believe we are at our “best” selves when we are serving others. Giving back to the community is your opportunity to create a legacy and make a real impact where it is needed!

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