Getting Friendly on Ambler Farm

VolunteerLocal was created and headquartered in Iowa, so you could say we’re fans of the great outdoors. We’ve spent our fair share of time among the cornfields, and we even tipped a few cows back in our day (we’re not proud).

Ambler Farm knows a thing or two about agriculture. The 200-year-old working farm has 22 acres of gorgeous land, and is one of Wilton, Connecticut’s best kept secrets. The farm was built in the 1790s by Revolutionary War veteran Josiah Raymond, and was continuously owned and occupied by his descendants for 200 years. In 1999, after the last surviving family member passed away, the town of Wilton purchased the land with overwhelming taxpayer support as part of an open-space initiative. A non-profit group called Friends of Ambler Farm was formed, and a mission was crafted to celebrate the town’s agrarian roots through active-learning programs, sustainable agriculture, responsible land stewardship, and historic preservation.

Today, Ambler Farm is active and fruitful with productive gardens; a successful farm stand; numerous educational programs for children, adults and families; and annual community events (maple syruping, anyone?). Many of these events are now Wilton traditions, as the town comes together to enjoy the best of what the farm offers and to celebrate the cycle of the New England year.

The Friends of Ambler Farm relies heavily on volunteers to help manage fundraisers, such as the annual Ambler Farm Day and Holiday Greens Sale, with over 100 volunteers needed for each event. “The reporting functionality has made it easier to track who is signing up and has allowed us to effectively acknowledge individuals for their service,” says Laurie Masonson, Marketing Board Member of Friends of Ambler Farm. “By keeping track of volunteers, we’ve also been able to use the database as a recruitment tool for reaching out to volunteers and requesting their support with other events. Demonstrating a more organized manner of recruiting volunteers promotes a sense of professionalism as we are working towards growing our volunteer base.”

 VolunteerLocal has also helped keep volunteers happy (the ultimate goal!). “To date, we’ve received positive feedback from our volunteers that they appreciate the VolunteerLocal system,” says Masonson.

So next time you want some one-on-one gardening tips, or are craving a delicious farm-to-table meal, consider giving Ambler Farm a visit. In the meantime, you can learn more about their amazing history and exciting upcoming events on their website.





Photos courtesy of Amber Farm

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Great Flowers and Good Feelings

In life, we all know that it’s important to stop and smell the roses from time to time. For those of us enduring a Midwest winter, that can be harder said than done (we don’t even remember what green grass looks like by February!) – but we do remember the feeling we get from smelling fresh flowers, it’s the same one we get giving back to our communities. 

Friends School of Minnesota knows all about great flowers and good feelings. Founded in 1988, the K-8 progressive education school is grounded in Quaker values. It strives to meet children’s intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs, with the belief that children learn best as active participants, collaborators, and problem-solvers within a community. The school boasts a very diverse community of students, and supports many of their families with need-based financial aid.

Friends School of Minnesota’s main fundraiser helps offset this cost of financial aid. Each year on Mother’s Day weekend in May, people gather for the biggest fundraising plant sale in Minnesota –  what began 27 years ago as a small affair held at the school is now a huge, sprawling event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Each year, the Plant Sale offers over 2,500 varieties of plants for sale during the three-day event. The fairgrounds are packed with lines of annuals, perennials, climbing plants, native wildflowers, and vegetables, as well as selected water plants, roses, trees, and shrubs.

The sale is entirely volunteer-run, with more than 1,200 volunteers working 80 different jobs, and over 350 shifts. This is quite an undertaking for a small school like Friends School of Minnesota, with an enrollment of only 164 students. “We built our own volunteer management sign up system a few years ago,” says Garth Morrisette, Business Manager at Friends School of Minnesota. “While our system worked well and served our needs initially, it was expensive and time consuming to maintain.”

“We’ve been with VolunteerLocal since 2014 and we love it,” says Morrisette. “VolunteerLocal’s system is easy to use and manage, and also doesn’t break our budget.”

If you’re looking to smell some (virtual) roses, check an amazing timelapse video of the Plant Sale. You can also learn more about Friends School of Minnesota and ways you can get involved at their website.


Photos courtesy of Friends School of Minnesota

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How To Feel Good and Do Good this Holiday Season!

The holidays are upon us! As they say, ‘tis the season to give back. Instead of stressing about shopping for a picky Dad or hosting those weird cousins of yours, why not try your hand at a little charity? We’ve got a few festive ideas to help you get involved in your local communities.

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Support Your Local Food Bank

Donating food is an easy way to make a huge difference. We all have canned goods in our pantries – dig them out and deliver them to a food pantry near you. Toys aren’t the only gifts to find a happy home this holiday season.

Give Warm Fuzzies

Clothes are always needed, especially in the wintertime. Homeless shelters are often looking for coats, hats, scarves, and mittens to keep people warm during the harsh weather. Reach into your closets (and your hearts) and donate any extra winter-wear you can. It’ll warm your spirit.

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Puppies, Kittens, Rabbits, oh my!

We KNOW you adore little animals just as much as we do. Show your love by donating blankets, toys, or food to a local animal rescue shelter. Our furry friends need a little holiday cheer, too!  

Donate Blood

Roses are red, violets are blue, blood is both – so donate! Sorry, we know that didn’t rhyme. Look, we all hate needles, but if you’re willing to get poked, it’ll help to save lives. Find blood drives happening near you. Plus, free cookies!

Get Moving!

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Sign up for a holiday 5K, 10K, half or full marathon that donates a portion (or all) proceeds to a local charity. Work off that eggnog while supporting a great cause.


The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Make a charitable donation in someone’s name. Having a donation made in your name is better than any pair of socks you could receive. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

While you’re out there making the most of this holiday season, don’t forget that really every month is a great month to give back. Studies show that December is the most popular month to volunteer or donate, but organizations always need help. Spread the cheer this season (and every season) to make our communities more cultural, safe, vibrant and fun!

Happy holidays, and happy volunteering!

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Puppies and kittens and more, oh my!

Last month, our very own Kaylee Williams decided it was time – she wanted to adopt a kitten. So we took a VolunteerLocal field trip to the Des Moines Animal Rescue League (one of our clients in the Des Moines Metro!). We were so impressed by the enthusiastic and helpful volunteers – and it was amazing to see the staggering number of animals they had rescued and were actively working to place into loving homes.

The Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach, Florida, is another example of an efficient, caring and safe environment for animals of all kinds to find refuge. Established in 1925, the Peggy Adams Rescue League services more than 30,000 animals each year, providing shelter, medical attention and protection for lost, homeless, or unwanted animals. The League also advocates for animal welfare through community events and educational forums.

“Humane education is very important in any community. Healthy animals mean healthy families, and healthier communities,” explains Tara Pregnolato, Manager of Volunteer Programming at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. “The League provides care, education, tools and resources to help our community’s animals.”

This nonprofit hosts a number of fundraising and social events to bring the community together for the love of animals – such as the Christmas Ball, Off the Leash, Walk for the Animals, Blessing of the Animals, Spay Days, and Countdown2Zero. “I enjoy the Blessing of the Animals,” says Pregnolato. “It’s not a major fundraiser, but a feel-good event. We invite the community to visit our campus with their animals for a morning of song and inspiration. It’s a warm event.”

Before using VolunteerLocal, the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League relied heavily on email blasts and spreadsheets to schedule their volunteers. This led to missed messages and technical errors. “The work I do on the backend to create roles and shifts takes some effort, but not having to field dozens of calls and emails and changes has freed me up to focus on event instructions and details,” says Pregnolato.

“We upgraded our account to a Discover Plan so we’d have the communication tool available. It’s been a very effective tool for us.”

To adopt your own “forever friend,” volunteer for one of the League’s events, donate, and more, check out their website here. And, for those of you undoubtedly wondering, Kaylee did get a new cat. Her name is Basil and we are all a little bit obsessed.


Photos courtesy of

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