Historical Evolution of The Volunteer Center

Established in 1960

 In 1960, months before newly elected President Kennedy challenged the country to embrace a spirit of volunteerism, a small group of visionaries on the North Shore founded the Volunteer Talent Pool (VTP), which was the first volunteer connector organization in the state of Illinois. What began as an intergenerational program with the North Shore Senior Center, New Trier High School and the Winnetka Public Schools, the VTP matched senior citizens with students who needed tutoring.  As the program grew, other public, private and parochial schools in Winnetka, Northfield, Glencoe and Kenilworth sought volunteers to assist with tutoring, curriculum enhancement, and career development. Wilmette formed its own Volunteer Pool. At the same time, the volunteer base expanded to include people of all ages and interests. As one early (i.e., prepared with a manual typewriter) VTP brochure explained, “Major changes in our social structure have made a growing number of volunteers available. Automation provides more time for women to extend their services to their communities.  Early retirement and increasing longevity contribute to the availability of the older adult.” The era of volunteerism was underway, and nonprofits throughout the Chicago area eagerly were seeking volunteers to help meet the ever-increasing needs of the under-served.  The Volunteer Talent Pool, with its mission “to find the particular assignment best suited to the skill and talent of a volunteer, ready and willing to serve the community,” was poised to respond.


Over the decades, the Volunteer Talent Pool evolved to meet changing community needs. Managed entirely by volunteers, office staff was not a part of the equation until the VTP received funding from the United Way in the 1970’s. The United Way wisely determined in order to have the necessary accountability and continuity of a sustainable nonprofit, paid staff became a requirement for all its funded agencies. This proved to be an effective management tool as the board was able to focus on program development and fundraising to remain viable. As the demand for volunteers grew, the organization introduced a semi-annual newsletter that detailed the organization’s many programs and services, which included special requests like assigning professional writers and authors as volunteers for Author’s and Writer’s Workshops in the middle schools. The VTP also engaged physicians and scientists to judge local school science fairs, as well as professionals for career and health fairs. The volunteers were pulled from a database of 800 interested volunteers. The service area at the time included the schools in Glencoe, Kenilworth, Northfield and Winnetka. When the Wilmette Volunteer Pool closed its doors in 1995, the VTP board expanded its service area to include all of New Trier Township and formally changed the organization’s name to the Volunteer Center of New Trier Township (VCNTT) to better reflect its comprehensive work in fostering and facilitating volunteerism as a Center. The VCNTT joined the Points of Light Foundation (founded by President George H.W. Bush) and its network of over 400 Volunteer Centers across the country. As the staff and the board continued to strive to connect individuals to nonprofit volunteer opportunities, the Volunteer Center introduced its first website in 2003 VolunteerCenterNTT.org  with an extensive database of local nonprofit opportunities.


In 2010 the Volunteer Center celebrated its fiftieth year during a challenging time for its nonprofit partners and those whom they served.  The nation’s recession of 2008 had a profound impact on federal and state funding support for their services. As a result, the Volunteer Center (VC) experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of nonprofits it represented, necessitating more programs, services, and outreach. At the same time, the pool of volunteers saw a surge in interest, as youth and other largely untapped populations clamored for meaningful volunteer opportunities. The Volunteer Center once again met those needs through educational symposia, volunteer fairs, and community days of service. Large numbers of individuals and nonprofits participated in those events.


In recognition of the expanding role in our region, in 2010-2011 the board abbreviated the organization’s name to the Volunteer Center (VC), dropping the circumscribed reference to New Trier Township. In addition to the fact that the VC was frequently confused with New Trier High School, and the local governmental body, New Trier Township, the name reflected the broadened service area which had grown to include Northeast Metropolitan Chicago. This became the VC’s official geographical designation. A new logo and website were created — VolunteerCenterHelps.org as the service area was no longer geographically limited to New Trier Township (NTT). The logo was adapted to include the graphic of the figures who represent people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities who help that same demographic facing a large array of life’s challenges.  Helping you help others became our motto.


Welcome 60 years! As communication strategies continue to evolve, programs, services and geographical reach expand, the fundamental work of the Volunteer Center remains the same as in 1960: Promote volunteerism, support nonprofit organizations, and engage people in meaningful volunteer service. As the VC enters its 60th year, it welcomes an updated website and crisp new logo. Peruse our website and uncover all the opportunities that await you, your family or the group you represent. The Volunteer Center will forever be committed to helping you help others.


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