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A new way to raise funds


San Juan County is home to many great youth organizations. And, fundraising goes hand in hand with kids and their causes. Fundraising has evolved beyond car washes and bake sales. Some offer pre-sales of popcorn, nuts, kitchen items and wrapping paper. There are walks, runs and golf tournaments. Then there are the adorable children stationed in parking lots and in front of stores selling cookies, donuts and candy bars. There are a lot of demands for our discretionary dollars - it can be confusing and frustrating to determine how to spread them. The Volunteer Incentive Program, or VIP, was developed specifically for youth organizations in our community in response to this deluge of demands on our resources.

About ten years ago George and Melissa Sharpe of Farmington decided they were tired of buying things they did not really want or need in order to support the youth in the Farmington area. They decided that they were willing to financially support the youth and their endeavors if the youth were willing to participate in work projects that benefited the community. They started close to home where their heart and their kids were at the time, Farmington schools.

Approximately two years ago Shantel and Ireke Cooper of Cooper Fire contacted the Sharpes after hearing about what they were doing. They were excited about the concept and came on board. Since then it has evolved from a personal mission of the Sharpes, to an organization. George credits Shantel's energy for, "taking it to a new level" by creating a 501C3 so other individuals and businesses have the opportunity to participate in funding youth activities in a more equitable manner. The Coopers also had the business contacts to help spread the word about the benefits of VIP.

The VIP Mission Statement is, "To support our youth by incentivizing them to serve in the community." The Sharpes feel this is an important message. Both George and Melissa serve local organizations in many ways. George credits his mother for instilling a sense of civic mindedness in him. She served on local boards, led Girl Scouts and was winner of many County Fair blue ribbons. He jokes that he and his brothers were Girl Scouts along with their sisters as they helped with the many projects and camps his mom oversaw. The Sharpes and Coopers hope that by encouraging youth to serve in the community it will help them, "see the value of service, not just to help the community, but their own intrinsic reward."

George recognizes an age gap in people serving in our community, "Look on the boards, look at the people that are involved, it tends to be our generation." While helping kids is the goal of VIP, the organization hopes that their experiences will help youth develop a sense of purpose that will result in the youth wanting to give back to the community. George said he hopes it "gives them a taste of the satisfaction that comes with helping out, doing something for someone."

The Volunteer Incentive Program "pays" youth teams, clubs and groups $8 per hour for time they spend volunteering in the community. They can find a project themselves and present it to the organization for approval, or there are resources that they can seek volunteer opportunities. George shares, "I really think it's going to be a shining example of a different way to fund kid activities."

For more information go to volunteerincentiveprogram.org, visit the Volunteer Incentive Program office at 615 West Maple in Farmington, or call 505.326.2477.

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