George Mather’s toilet had been running for days, but his failing eyesight and aged fingers made the normally easy task of fixing the toilet extremely difficult. Emma Klein’s husband was returning to a home that was not wheelchair-friendly; funds were severely limited, and the distant-located family was unable to help. Fortunately for both George and Emma, a longstanding local support organization was able to help both seniors remedy their issues quickly and with minimal cost.
ACTION VC is a unique non-profit serving Ventura County. They are a conduit for bringing individuals, churches, businesses, and local agencies together to serve and support those who are under-resourced and vulnerable in the community. Seniors and low-income individuals especially appreciate the organization’s ability to provide much-needed support. In 2020, the group served over 4,000 friends and neighbors in need.
Throughout the year, ACTION VC also connects volunteers with local service projects and opportunities. Volunteers appreciate the opportunity to share skills and talents with those in need, often selecting projects and locations that best fit their individual skills as well. The tangible service projects improve the quality of life and home safety for those with financial, physical, and spiritual needs. Tasks often require minimal time to accomplish, but the emotional bridge built often lasts a lifetime as recipients feel the care and love bestowed in the labors of love.
Volunteers meet local needs and also experience a bit of an educational journey, gaining a greater understanding of social and economic disparities within our communities as well as accompanying needs. To receive a weekly needs list, interested volunteers sign up at actionvc.org. Project details are shared upon signing up for a desired project. People with disabilities comprise a large number of those in need; Ramp and grab bar installations are often needed for those with limited mobility. Licensed contractors are highly desirable for volunteer opportunities, but there are many Needs of the Week (NOW) projects available requiring general knowledge to meet critical minor repair needs, help with moves, and provide compassion.
Volunteer experiences may also expand to include small groups of people in the organization’s Local Love Days or service days. Soccer clubs, scouts, and schools have organized small groups to wash windows, paint, pull weeds, and so much more. The annual LOVE VC or Love Ventura County event involves thousands of volunteers and brings acts of service county-wide to communities in need. Since 2005, this event has grown from a handful of church volunteers to over 2,000 volunteers from many backgrounds, with more churches, local businesses, and agencies joining the effort to serve in their neighborhoods. In 2019, over 57 organizations sponsored neighborhood projects.
“What stands out about us is that we are an all-volunteer organization and available to meet the needs of those who need it the most,” said Kayla, ACTION VC Project and Volunteer Coordinator. She added, “We want to see neighbors loving neighbors, one project at a time, and encourage churches, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods to love their neighbors.”
Most recently, students from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Montana responded to Carolyn’s cry for help. The low-income senior became distraught as weeds overtook her backyard and her home’s eaves deteriorated. The ten-person team responded, tackling the tasks, filling a need, and letting this older woman know that someone cared.
Another yearly event, the Community Christmas Shoppe, has brought great joy to many local residents. With approximately 32 percent of Ventura County children living in poverty, the Christmas Shoppe allows families to shop for toys at no personal cost. Over 15,000 donated gifts are collected annually and distributed at various local venues to 6,000 children in Ventura County. The annual event’s success has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004, thanks to the efforts of over 1,500 volunteers.
ACTION VC is always seeking new ways to increase community support and sponsors the Neighboring Well webinar. Young county professionals participated in the webinar’s initial launch in February. The dialogue centered on ways to meet Ventura County’s 2021 needs and new ways to serve the community. Local community members and other agency partners will participate in future webinars.
New Executive Director Natalie Pavia sees the organization making strides in uniting people to help others. She said, “Over the last year, ACTION has gone through a major reboot. We have intentionally restructured our organization to make our work of meeting the most pressing needs in Ventura County relevant, effective, and meaningful.” She further added, “Part of our work now includes hosting quarterly webinars on the topics of neighboring and how we can give back in our communities on a daily basis. By leading these conversations, our aim is to engage people to serve beyond once or twice a year. At the end of the day, we’re all about fostering a community that actively cares for one another.”
The non-profit has been actively responding to pandemic needs and created the COVID Emergency Services program to provide additional support. The program includes grocery delivery and a phone companionship service to serve seniors and immune-compromised individuals.
ACTION VC believes that they can accomplish more by working together and by taking action to make a difference in their neighbors’ lives. By joining resources, efforts, and neighbors, Ventura County can help its communities to heal, grow, and, most importantly, thrive.