Voluntinder aims to connect volunteers with local non-profits

Anyone single and on the dating market in the past six years has likely heard of Tinder, an app that helps match people looking to connect.

Now, a website called Voluntinder is launching this week using the same model, but it has nothing to do with dating. The new service hopes to match volunteers with community groups in Kings County.

Voluntinder is being launched by King's Youth Wellness. The group was started by family doctor Nicole Fancy because she wanted to help youth in the community, she said.

"As a family doctor I see a lot of youth struggling with mental-health issues and very little done from a preventative standpoint," she said.

Volunteering aids in wellness, Fancy said.

"I think giving back is a way of kind of finding yourself and getting outside of your own problems and own issues and seeing what else is out there," she said.

Bringing compassion to a new level

There are many initiatives around mental health, "but sometimes you have to take compassion to a new level," Fancy said.

When the group was started last fall, one of the ideas that came up was the importance of volunteering, said Jenn Victor, who works as a guidance counsellor at Montague High School.

I came to the realization I wasn't just helping others when I was volunteering, I was helping myself. — Caitlin McKenna

"I'm always looking to fill volunteer positions, students are coming, 'What can I do?' so this was a great opportunity," she said.

One of those students looking for volunteer opportunities was recent Montague High graduate Caitlin McKenna.

She said she has been volunteering since she was 12 years old, starting out with the Special Olympics.

"I came to the realization I wasn't just helping others when I was volunteering, I was helping myself. As soon as I got there it was like an instant stress relief," she said.

She said she didn't know that feeling could go beyond her until joining the King's Youth Wellness group.

Eliminating stress

McKenna came up with the idea to make volunteering more accessible to people who may find themselves in a dark place.

"We thought of a way to match the two, with the organization and the volunteer and really eliminate all areas of stress," McKenna said.

She said the site is easy to use, people just visit the website, enter their information and they will be matched with organizations in their fields of interest.

King's Youth Wellness is hosting information sessions, one noon on Tuesday at Montague High School and one at St. Peter's Complex noon on Wednesday.

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