Laura’s House: Ending Domestic Violence

Laura’s House

“People don’t normally think of domestic violence when they imagine Orange County, California,” says Melanie Galloway, Development and Volunteer Coordinator at Laura’s House, a shelter to empower and protect those affected by domestic violence in Orange County. “They think of palm trees and sandy beaches. They think of the Real Housewives.” The reality of domestic violence, however, is a far cry from the Bravo! television series.

In fact, according to the California Women‘s Health Survey, approximately 40% of California women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes (male lifetime prevalence rates are not available). This same study found younger women, 18-24 years of age, were significantly more likely (11%) to be victims of physical intimate partner violence in the past year than women in other age groups (CPEDV, 2011).

Laura’s House, an Emergency Shelter located in Orange County, California, aims to change social beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate domestic violence while maintaining a safe space to empower individuals and families affected by abuse.

“We empower our clients to make the best decisions for their families and themselves,” says Melanie. From therapy to childcare, legal advocacy, and case management to an in-house Resale boutique, Laura’s House provides services on every level to promote healing and independence.

“It’s an amazing transition when they realize that they can make it on their own,” she adds. And when they do, Emergency Shelter graduates within the last three years are invited to a holiday party in their honor, with holiday gifts, lunch, crafts and an opportunity to reconnect with their therapist, case manager, support staff and fellow graduates.

After the Laura’s House Emergency Shelter was rebuilt in December 2011, the facility has become a hub of warmth and support, alight with the buzz of activism. “It feels just like a home,” says Melanie. “It’s not cold or institutional. You walk in the doors, take a deep breath and all the worries just fade away.”

But that wasn’t the only renovation for Laura’s House. In 2012, Melanie began using an automated volunteer recruitment process through VolunteerLocal. “We rely heavily on our volunteers for special events, the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline, our Resale boutique and childcare,” she says. In fact, Laura’s House volunteers clocked in over 8,100 hours last year alone. With VolunteerLocal, Laura’s House now offers two volunteer training classes per month, a process that usually attracts between 5-15 attendees. “These are volunteers that may have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle. [VolunteerLocal] allows us to have a more personal dialogue and interaction with them,” she says. “I can’t say enough about our experience using VolunteerLocal–we’re seeing more volunteers come through, get connected to opportunities, and have a realistic outlook on the opportunities available. I’m not having to rely on emails back-and-forth to connect with our volunteers—they are able to take control of the process. It’s been huge.”

Photos courtesy of Free-Extras, The Guardian and Laura’s House

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The Six Million Dollar Solution

So, you’ve put together a great event? We bet you can do it again–with the promise of a tastier, cooler, all-around-groovier experience.


As event planners and volunteer coordinators everywhere descend upon drawing boards for this year’s round of Bacon Festivals, downtown marathons and State Fairs, the heat is on to make them better than ever. Need some inspiration? Steve Austin to the rescue!

The Six Million Dollar Solution

Building an iron-clad reputation is clutch to the success of any event. As word spreads and attendance grows, however, so does the pressure to make this year’s tango even spicier than the last. But never fear! Here are some creative solutions for a better, stronger, and faster 2013.


“A man barely alive…” Investing in a new theme for your event each year is a lucrative practice. A fresh design is the most public way to breathe life back into your festival, show or conferenceAs a highly visible marketing tactic, the unveiling of each year’s hip new spin garners lots of excitement (and press). Take a note from Atlanta’s book–the design for their annual Suwanee Days community celebration is a much-anticipated city-wide contest!

“We can rebuild him…we have the technology.” There are lots of viable technology solutions to make your event more efficient and the processes more streamlined. Your festival-goers will notice, your volunteers will be delighted, and your artists or entertainers won’t be able to thank you enough for making it so easy. Try incorporating more local vendors (craft breweries are always a hit), automated volunteer registration (oh, hello!) or a better ticketing company to start.

“This is Oscar Goldman.” Find the right main attraction. A performing artist, particular keynote speaker or esteemed inspirational figure can be a powerful draw for your event. Like a street speaker, he or she has got to be passionate and particular in their delivery. Like a smart business-owner, you’ve got to know what it is your crowd will come to see.


Photos courtesy of


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“The Grass is Always Greener…”

It’s the unknown value of the “other.” The feeling of loss when you click “book” on that vacation package or the moment you pick one job over another. Economists call it opportunity cost, the rapper Pittbull calls it International LoveCNBC sums it up pretty well with the whole Europe does it better thing. And these are just a few of the MANY creative variations that we see in our everyday lives of the old adage, “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Photo cred:

Here at VolunteerLocal, we’re all about volunteers giving back to their communities; making the world a better place, one soup kitchen at a time. Yet small, local nonprofits often struggle to find volunteers. Although there’s lots of work to be done, volunteer connection agencies and the nonprofits themselves can only do so much to entice area candidates to step forward and donate their time. So today, we encourage you to meet them halfway there: volunteers, unite! Celebrate your local food banks, your downtown day-care centers and public libraries by giving a little time and love to help their cause.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Day-dreaming of palm trees and street names you can’t pronounce is probably a good sign that you should consider applying to international programs (try connecting with cool organizations like Volunteer Planet), but in the meantime, why not try looking around your own neighborhood for volunteer opportunities a little closer to home? (I know, I know–one does not simply walk into Mordor. But trust us, it’s easier than it sounds.)

Get on Google and find a free lunch program nearby. Meet the owners of a booth at the Farmer’s Market and learn to stuff, roll and fry egg-rolls. Donate your time walking dogs at the local humane society or teach a summer class at the arts center. You could even reach out to your Community Foundation for ideas. The world is a big place, but there are plenty of opportunities at home–all you have to do is seek them out.


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Highlights from IMFCON

When I first heard Brian Hemesath say “IMFCON,” I sincerely thought he was making a Battlestar Gallactica reference. Admittedly, I made at least one awkward Edward James Olmos joke before Brian informed me that IMFCON is actually an acronym for the International Music Festival Conference–a hip music and film conference which takes place annually in Austin, Texas. As sponsors, Brian told me we’d be taking a trip to Austin to meet festival coordinators and spread the good word about VolunteerLocal.

So last month, we threw on our swanky VolunteerLocal t-shirts and hopped a couple American Airlines to Dixie–Brian proudly sporting a golf bag that was nearly as tall as I am (and comically wrapped in bright blue painter’s tape), and I was carrying all the mediated stereotypes of a landlocked Iowa girl, along with a relatively small carry-on (in which I had somehow stuffed cowboy boots, heels, a blanket, six pairs of pants, three swimsuits and an extra hair dryer…you never know).

We came, we saw, we conferenced. We also a learned a lot and met some wonderful people along the way.


Burning Man. The first panel we attended was a forum on Burning Man, where we got to meet the actual team behind this notorious barter-style, art-inspired, soul-enhancing summer festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Fascinatingly, Burning Man features no musical performances (planned, at least), no food vendors, and no cell phone reception. The business model that sustains Burning Man is predicated on the human model of reciprocity, community, and calculated risk. It sells out every year.

“The Best Speaker on the Planet…is not named Martin Atkins,” says Martin Atkins. “Who would want to be introduced that way?!” Actually, we thought he was pretty great. Using a variety of props, profanities and some good old fashioned common sense, he presented to IMFCON attendees the importance of keeping up with changes in technology, using the “free” tactic (no, really, this is free), and being awesome. Then he threw blueberry muffins at us.

Ticketing companiesThere were many. Naturally, we still think Tikly is the best.

Unconference. The “unconference”: a series of roundtable discussions that revolved around a prompt hidden beneath the centerpieces of each table. These prompts were pointedly unconference-y, ranging from What’s your favorite country? to Who is your all-time favorite musical artist? After a few minutes, attendees scattered to meet new people at different tables. It was here I met some ladies from the Oyster Ridge Bluegrass Festival and Hands That Rock, as well as The Festival Guy (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Orlando Bloom)!

Tito’s Vodka and Chocolate Coconut Water. If you loved drinking the leftover milk after a hearty breakfast of Cocoa Puffs when you were a kid, this is the drink for you!

New Technology to Streamline Festival Operations. Brian got to talk shop as a member of this panel to discuss how recent advents in technology can help to streamline festival operations–namely, volunteer management. We loved the opportunity to hear from volunteer coordinators first-hand the problems they face, the solutions they need, and the current systems they’re using.

All Texans wear cowboy hats. Untrue. I think I saw more people in the Dallas airport with cowboy hats (enthusiastic tourists?) than in the entire city of Austin during our stay. So there you have it. Cowboy boots? Different story altogether.

We’d like to thank the great people at IMFCON for hosting another informative and entertaining conference, as well as all the festival coordinators we met along the way. Cheers to Austin, Texas for keeping it real (and weird). Until we meet again!

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