On Thursday, October 1st, VolunteerConnect hosted its third annual Impact Awards at Labyrinth Books in Princeton to celebrate the invaluable contributions of our local skilled volunteers, organizations, and businesses. Anne VanLent was recognized as the individual awardee, while NRG Energy received the corporate award and Habitat for Humanity of Trenton accepted the community organization award. This event celebrated and drew together key members of the Princeton area who have shown exceptional commitment to promoting volunteerism as means of strengthening communities and creating social change.
Pictured from left: Community Award Winner – Habitat for Humanity of Trenton, represented by Executive Director Tom Caruso; Individual Award Winner – Anne VanLent; VolunteerConnect Executive Director Amy Klein; VolunteerConnect Board Chair, Amy Beth Dambeck; Corporate Award Winner – NRG, represented by Judith Lagano, David Hill & Michael Mahon
Ms. VanLent’s contributions are particularly well-known in the Princeton community, due to her dedicated service on the boards of local nonprofit organizations including the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the Arts Council of Princeton, McCarter Theatre, and the Princeton Area Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls. Through her tenure at various life science corporations, her experience with strategic and financial management has positioned her to guide nonprofits in need of similar oversight.
Ms. VanLent views volunteer service as an integral part of community life, rather than an act of generosity. “We take for granted so many of the things that add to the quality of our lives,” she says. “Those things don’t just happen on their own; it’s important to raise your head and say, ‘What can I do to help maintain this environment that I enjoy so much?’” She has found rich personal rewards in her service, citing the “wonderful people” who work in the nonprofit sector as her source of inspiration: “There are only a few passionate people who work for wages that aren’t competitive with the private sector; they can’t do their jobs without a cadre of volunteers on all levels to make these operations work.”
VolunteerConnect’s programs focus on providing nonprofit board recruitment and training, resources for nonprofit leadership, and short-term, skills-based volunteer projects. Ms. VanLent recognizes the need for skilled leadership on nonprofit boards: “[Professionals] tend to not understand what gifts they have. That’s the wake-up call for people who are reticent to serve on boards: you’ll love the people, and you have no idea how much you can help by sharing the skills you use every day.” She urges all professionals to consider ways they can contribute to supporting a nonprofit. “Start by picking a cause that you have a real interest in: one that adds to the quality of your life and makes you say, ‘I want to make sure this organization sticks around; they’re part of the fabric of my life.’ There’s a joy in knowing that you’ve provided benefit to others, and it leads you to experience people and things that you wouldn’t otherwise.”