Alisa Kesten is making it easier than ever for locals to rack up their service hours. Just visit the Volunteer Center of United Way's website and type in what kind of work you’d like to do, says the executive director.
Using the Volunteer Center's online database, residents of all ages can search for one-time or extended commitments with nearby corporations, non-profit organizations and more.
"If you volunteer when you're young, you'll probably volunteer for life. I come from a family that is committed to the community," said the New Rochelle resident.
The self-proclaimed "mom who can't say 'no'" says the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation is just one of the community groups she is personally involved with. Kesten says non-profits may not provide the highest salaries, but in many instances do provide the highest emotional payout.
If you want to help your community but aren't sure where to do it, Kesten advises that you look no further than your own interests. “Organizations value skill-based volunteers that are passionate about the mission," she added.
As for her own skill-set, Kesten says she has taken lessons from another woman familiar with leadership: Hillary Rodham Clinton. When she served as a campaign coordinator for Friends of Hillary’s Westchester and Rockland County division in 2008, Kesten watched Clinton reach her goals. She now brings that experience to the office every day.
“I try to empower people who work under me to act as independently as possible," she said. "Any leader needs to know how to focus on what’s really important."
She also picked up tips from the Volunteer Center itself. In 2005, she graduated from Leadership Westchester, a program designed to sharpen skills and provide an understanding of how non-profit organizations work. She later went on to become its board president before landing the role of executive director last year.
When she isn’t working, Kesten spends time her husband Ted and three children.