Winston-Salem Monthly

Triad Moms on Main

Service Hours: Turning a Task Into a Meaningful Experience

By Guest Bloggers Isabelle Ginn and Allie Valaoras, High School Juniors

Published in the Triad Moms on Main blog, January 2019

Students are faced with high expectations to log service hours and there are so many opportunities to serve the community. As high school juniors, we have volunteered in many capacities, though sometimes, we felt like we were adding up the number of hours we served rather than focusing on the meaning behind those hours. That’s why we founded Hearten, a 501c3 nonprofit organization focused on person-to-person volunteering. What exactly is person-to-person volunteering? It is about making direct connections and building relationships with the people we serve. We recognize that behind-the-scenes service is important, but our mission is the type of service that brings volunteers and recipients together, face to face.

Once we decided on our mission, we brainstormed, wrote our by-laws and took the necessary steps to make our organization official. Then we recruited volunteers and looked for meaningful projects.

Our first project was working with a retirement community as they introduced iPads to several hundred residents. We helped the seniors with the general use of the iPad as well as navigating the community’s own software program. We visited every week and worked one-on-one to help them load new apps, link their library accounts, search the web or adjust settings to tailor the device to their needs. A particular highlight was watching the residents’ excitement as they learned to FaceTime their grandchildren. It only took a short while to feel the impact of our work. We built wonderful bonds with the people we met and we found we got as much (or more) out of it than they did.

We also became involved with an after-school program at a local church where underprivileged kids could attend to work on homework, receive tutoring, participate in activities and eat dinner. Though the project served a very different age group than our first project, we felt the same connection. It helped us know we were on the right track and it solidified our mission. This month, we begin a new project to read to seniors who have lost the ability to read independently due to physical limitations. Our projects have focused on kids and seniors so far, but our goal is to help all ages, and maybe along the way, we’ll find a project to help animals.

We are always looking for new volunteers who are responsible and willing to bring energy to our organization. We prefer high school or upper middle school students because we often have age requirements for the projects. Additionally, we are constantly seeking new projects, so if you or your organization has a need, please visit our website and let us know. We would love to hear from you.

Buena Vista Life

Making a Difference

By Kirby Carespodi, Robinhood Road
Photo by Oh, Goodness Fine Portraits

Published in Buena Vista Life Magazine, April 2019

The college application process can be a daunting one – and one of the things most colleges look for from applicants is an interest in service – volunteering in one’s school or community. Most students find ways to volunteer through clubs or churches, but two young ladies have taken volunteerism a step further – by creating their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Isabelle Ginn and Allie Valaoras are Buena Vista residents and students at Reynolds High School. They created Hearten, an organization that focuses on person-to-person volunteering. Instead of working behind-the-scenes, person-to-person volunteering focuses on bringing volunteers and recipients face-to-face. The girls believe that making the connections that build relationships is what makes Hearten different.

Hearten began with two projects and approximately fifteen volunteers. Their inaugural project was helping senior citizens use iPads to surf the web as well as link their library accounts and, most importantly, FaceTime their grandchildren! The one-on-one instruction allowed the volunteers to tailor their instruction to each resident. Isabelle and Allie also feel that the volunteers got as much out of the opportunity as the senior citizens did.

Another volunteer undertaking was working with a church after-school program. The volunteers helped younger students with homework and activities. Although the program working with underprivileged youth was completely different than working with seniors, it was just as rewarding and beneficial to both the young students and the volunteers.

Isabelle and Allie would love to see their organization grow, and plan to continue Hearten even after they graduate. Both girls plan to attend college and they will hand over the day-to-day operations to their younger siblings, Ava and Matt, who are currently in 9th grade. But both girls plan to continue their volunteerism in college and beyond, as they love making a positive impact on the community.

The Hearten website ( is a great place to learn more about this organization. You can use the website to find out about person-to-person volunteering or making a tax-deductible donation. You can also contact them to see if your volunteer needs might be a fit for Hearten. They would love to hear from the community regarding new projects in need of volunteers.

Making volunteerism personal is what Hearten is about, and Isabelle and Allie are truly the heart of the organization!