stephanie-rokichby Stephanie Rokich
Community Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

Are you passionate about improving your community but don’t know where to start? Do you work or care for family and think there aren’t any opportunities that fit your busy schedule? Or are you an active volunteer looking to take your service to the next level? If so, check out our new Community Volunteer Engagement Blog Series, which will give you tips, inspire you with stories, and help you get involved in meaningful, fulfilling ways.

This is the first post in the Community Volunteer Engagement Blog Series.

If you don’t think you’re meant for volunteering, here are some insights from United Way of Salt Lake staff members who actively volunteer. Though their stories vary, they all have one thing in common: they enjoy volunteering and think you will too!

Q: Why did you start volunteering?

danya-pastuszekA: I got started volunteering with my mom. When I was young, we collected food and brought it to the food bank. As I got older, we visited hospitals and senior centers spent time with their residents. In high school and college, she encouraged me when I wanted to volunteer in Mexico and Nicaragua and Israel. I volunteer because I have never not volunteered. It’s one in a list of things that makes life feel complete. And because doing so lets me get to know people and places and situations that I might otherwise not.
Danya Pastuszek, Senior Director, Learning & Analytics

james-brownA: After learning about some of the successes of the Read. Graduate. Succeed. initiative, I decided I wanted to be a part of helping students reach their academic potential. It’s just one of the many small ways I can give back to the community.
James Brown, Community Investment Advisor


Q: How do you find opportunities?

A: To quote the movie Robots, there are many ways to “see a need, fill a need.” The United Way 2-1-1 Volunteer Center is a great place to start. In addition to finding opportunities with our neighborhood centers, you can click Find Opportunities to be directed to our online database. Currently, about 200 agencies offer nearly 400 opportunities in Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, and Tooele counties. You can sign up coach a kids’ softball team once a week, plant trees on a Saturday, or visit with a homeless person in a hospice. A fun and rewarding experience awaits!

Q: How do you make time to volunteer as well as work fulltime?

Mike WattsA: When I was first looking at the Read. Graduate. Succeed. initiative, I was hesitant to commit to an hour a day for two days a week. I thought I couldn’t fit that into my calendar. Then a coworker asked if we could both sign up for one time slot and each take one day out of the two. This has worked out great. We are finishing up our second year with this program and there have only been three times when we could not cover for each other. It has been much easier than I thought, and I fight fiercely to stop other appointments or meetings from keeping me away from my kids. I need them as much as they need me. Mike Watts, Community Investment Advisor
Also check out this article on work-life balance combined with volunteering.

Q: If you have children, can they get involved?

A: In the summer of 2013 I was able to take my two kids (then ages 9 and 7) to a volunteer event, hosted by United Way of Salt Lake, that was perfect for families who wanted to volunteer together. We sorted pencils and other supplies for kids their same age. They loved it! Last summer we were able to participate again by putting hygiene kits together. Both of these volunteer opportunities had a great impact on my children — they knew these projects helped kids their same age and that live not too far from us. Even though it is only March, my kids have already asked if we can help again this year.
Mike Watts, Community Investment Advisor

If you have other questions about volunteering or topics you would like addressed in this blog series, please contact Stephanie at or (801) 746-2566


Tiffany Wilkerson's Group at The Parent CenterStay tuned for the next post on how to find opportunities that match your interests, skills, and schedule!