Earlier this year, Amanda Chase was researching ways she could volunteer for Martin Luther King Jr.’s annual Day of Service.
More specifically, the attorney at Strellis & Field in downtown Waterloo was seeking a way fellow members of the Waterloo Listens social justice group could give back.
She had trouble finding opportunities to volunteer, but she did find out her town was a member of the Cities of Service Coalition.
“I was super proud of Waterloo,” Chase said of her reaction to that discovery. “There’s only 280 sister cities that belong to this coalition. Our town is among that distinguished list, and that’s pretty impressive.”
Knowing that Waterloo was a member of that organization and seeing the struggles she had finding service opportunities without visiting every organization’s website, Chase decided to reach out to see if there was a way to make that process easier.
She decided to create a draft of a website to accomplish that goal and worked with the city to finalize it.
“After I learned that Mayor Tom (Smith) has a heart for service, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for a citizen group and the city to collaborate,” Chase said.
Smith said he joined the coalition on behalf of the city in 2013.
“But we really haven’t done much with it,” Smith noted.
Founded in 2009 by then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Cities of Service Coalition aims to help mayors build stronger cities by enabling local governments and their citizens to work together more effectively.
About 84 million people, including those in Columbia, are represented by the organization.
“Cities of Service helps cities with initiatives that are driven by community members and meet specific needs to improve the quality of life,” Chase summarized.
The website is still in development, so a release date has not yet been announced.
Chase said remaining edits include reaching out to each community organization in Waterloo to ensure information is up to date.
The key feature of the site will be a database or list of all current volunteer opportunities available, making it easier for residents to help the community.
The website will also include a feature Smith has been wanting for some time — a way for Waterloo to track service hours.
“Our community gives lots of hours, and I always wanted to somehow track those hours,” Smith said, adding he would like to have a sign showing those hours like one he saw in Arkansas.
The final main component of the website will be a page dedicated to testimonials of people who have volunteered. The goal of that tab will be to demonstrate Waterloo’s service and encourage those who may be considering participating in some way.
“The community has been really good to me during my period of grief right now,” said Smith, who recently lost his wife to cancer. “It just shows how our community can help others and let others know that our community cares for other people.”
Chase said she hopes the website will help the “vibrant, service-minded” people of Waterloo in whatever way it can.
“We live in such an amazing area where people are continually putting others first,” she said. “There are neighbors who value empathy and compassion, and I just hope the website will be a tool to help those people.”
Those wanting more information on the new website or to be listed as a volunteer can email SDeutch@waterloo.il.us.