'Untapping Potential' event aims to match millennial volunteers with nonprofits

Volunteers plant flowers in Druid Hill Park in 2014 during a Volunteering Untapped event.
Volunteers plant flowers in Druid Hill Park in 2014 during a Volunteering Untapped event. (Colby Ware, BALTIMORE SUN)

They came to learn ways to make the city better — and for the beer.

Volunteering Untapped celebrated its third anniversary Saturday with an "Untapping Potential" event at the Columbus Center at the Inner Harbor, where millennials were matched with local organizations in need of volunteers.


Seth Franz, the founder and executive director of Volunteering Untapped, said more than 40 representatives of organizations — including the Living Classrooms Foundation, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore and Playworks Maryland — came to speak with prospective volunteers. The groups' needs ranged from participation in one-time projects to filling board member positions.

"This is not a time for indifference. This city needs you," Franz told the crowd of several hundred, who were treated to free craft beer and wine.


Rep. Elijah E. Cummings urged attendees to join in making Baltimore a stronger city.

The Baltimore Democrat said change often comes from those who give time and effort but don't make the front pages of newspapers and aren't interviewed on National Public Radio. Volunteers, he said, have the power to make a difference for "so many generations."

The event featured a "Charity Tinder" enabling the nonprofits to tell volunteers about their organizations and help match volunteers with other groups.

Friends Mike Miller of Canton and Drew Wimmer of Fells Point said they regularly attend Volunteering Untapped initiatives, which are held the second Saturday of each month. The organization sends emails to members listing each month's event and provides food and drinks at an after party at a local bar.

Miller, 33, said he helped wrap Ravens bobblehead dolls that were donated to the Salvation Army in December to hand out as Christmas presents to needy children. In just a few hours, he said, the group managed to wrap more than 1,000.

He said enjoys volunteering, but might not have the time to dedicate his free time to just one organization.

"They really simplify volunteering," he said.

Wimmer, 33, said he enjoys the opportunity to work for a variety of organizations.

He spent one day recently volunteering at Second Chance in South Baltimore, which reclaims items from old buildings and sells them. Wimmer moved donated sinks to the organization's 200,000-square-foot warehouse.

Wimmer said he and his fiancee plan their weekend around the monthly events.

"We have met so many different people," he said.

Maria Goodson is community engagement manager for Reading Partners, which provides tutors to work with young children to improve their reading skills. She said the event Saturday offered a great opportunity to recruit new tutors.


Reading Partners works in 19 schools in Baltimore, serving students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The organization requires volunteers to give one hour a week to work with students inside the classroom during school days.

"It sometimes is a hard sell," she said. But about an hour into the afternoon-long event, she said, she had received contact information from 15 potential volunteers.

"Already, this has been a great success for us," she said.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun