Augustans develop Web sites for use by local nonprofits

The Internet has become a tool for people to do just about anything -- research, shop, network -- even connect volunteers with nonprofit organizations.

"In our busy lives, people think that there's no time for volunteering or that they will have trouble finding places to volunteer," said Angela Hillesland, the creator of VolunteerAugusta.com. "But we can always give back, even if it's in a small way, and by providing the Web site, people have a one-stop place to see all the opportunities available to volunteer and give back."

Ms. Hillesland created the site in 2000 after volunteering at the Celebrate 2000 event in Augusta on New Year's Eve 1999.

"I met so many volunteers that night who worked hard and went above and beyond," she said. "They came back to me at the end of the event and asked about ways they could do more volunteering.

''It occurred to me to be a liaison for people in this area who wanted to volunteer and for nonprofit organizations that need volunteers."

The Web site includes a page that lists the organizations' daily needs; a resource page that lists nonprofit organizations and their contact information; and a calendar page that lists area events.

The site started with a small following of volunteers and organizations, and now it averages 10,000 hits a month, Ms. Hillesland said.

"I would not have guessed that almost 10 years later that it would branch out so much, and now even includes a Facebook group," she said.

"The thing is, we never really advertised our Web site or anything. It's grown mostly through word of mouth. It's really grown in a grass-roots way."

Augusta's Choice, another locally created Web site, recently launched a section that lists more than 100 nonprofit organizations and social services in the area.

"There are so many different businesses and organizations in Augusta, but it can be hard to find information about them without also pulling information from everywhere else," said Kenny Adams, who created the site with his wife, Natasha, in June. "That's why we created Augusta's Choice. We wanted a place people could go that's all about the Augusta area. You won't find information from some other state or city mixed in."

The site originally began as a free business directory. On July 13 it expanded to include a directory of nonprofit organizations and social services.

"We're trying to look out for everyone," Mr. Adams said. "My wife and I moved to Augusta about two years ago, and we see this as a way to give back to the place we now call home."

Like VolunteerAugusta.com, Augusta's Choice has also found a following on Facebook.

"Our Facebook fan base is growing quickly. We already have a little over 300 fans on our Facebook page," he said. "We post a lot of information there and on the Web site."

VolunteerAugusta.com and Augusta's Choice are updated daily, and nonprofit organizations are listed free.

To view volunteer opportunities, find local nonprofits or include your nonprofit, visit www.volunteeraugusta.com or www.augustaschoice.com.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

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