Volunteer Odyssey, the local nonprofit volunteer center, is turning 10 in 2023

Celebrate with us on April 15 with a morning of volunteering, an afternoon of fun

10 years of building a pathway to volunteerism that enriches our lives and communities. 

10 years of meeting community needs through volunteerism. 

10 years of connecting volunteers to the people and places that need them most. 

To celebrate this milestone, we are highlighting some of our favorite memories from the last ten years and inviting the community to get involved with our work. 

Our story, like most, began before our official start date and saw many stages before becoming what it is today. 

Today, we are a volunteer center based in and built for Memphis, TN. Founded by our current Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Petschonek, who graduated from the University of Memphis with her doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Unfulfilled in her post-graduation job, she came home to Memphis to try something new. Dr. Petschonek volunteered with 30 nonprofits over 30 days and then traveled the country researching best practices in volunteerism. That experience, coupled with her schooling, laid the foundation for the formation of Volunteer Odyssey in 2013. I/O Psychology focuses on employee satisfaction, retention, and workplace culture and is used to evaluate how likely employees are to stay and recruit others. Dr. Petschonek took this concept and applied it to volunteerism- focusing on the quality of experiences so that volunteers are likely to return and recruit others. 

Her reasoning: High-quality volunteer experiences promote volunteer retention. Volunteer retention uplifts nonprofits. Thriving nonprofits meet vital community needs. The more needs we can meet efficiently and effectively, the more supported, healthy, and viable our city becomes.

During our formation, Volunteer Odyssey served as a job-seekers program, placing volunteers in nonprofits, coaching them through leveraging that volunteer experience in their job search, and connecting them to key community contacts to assist in their search. Volunteering shaped Sarah’s career path, and she knew it could do the same for others. Some of our programming has been revolutionary in the field, including an interactive volunteer mural on Main Street and our VolunTour360 Virtual Reality experience. While these aspects of our work shifted as we aged, the heart of it- quality volunteer experiences and personalized service suggestions- remains.  

The pandemic spared no one, nonprofits included. Along with our volunteers and nonprofit partners, Volunteer Odyssey’s programs pivoted, and efforts shifted to ensure we could continue to meet community needs safely. Our organization is immensely proud of our involvement in the Germantown vaccination site. Situated in the parking lot of Germantown United Methodist was an enormous vaccination operation with a team of people pulled together from other positions throughout the cities of Germantown and Collierville. City employees, previously working in roles like Parks and Recreation, Communications, and Inclusion became Operations Managers and Volunteer Coordinators. They began the daunting task of running a vaccination clinic, fueled by the uncertainty of the pandemic and the goal of getting through it together. We started a new type of volunteer recruitment, needing a higher volume of volunteers than our usual opportunities, with over 60 volunteers needed every day of operation. Volunteer Odyssey ran volunteer sign-ups for the Germantown vaccination site where over 80,000 shots were administered to Memphians. This was made possible by the over 800 volunteers who donated over 9,000 hours to keep Memphis healthy. 

We have assisted over 20 corporations in their efforts to engage employees in volunteer service. Working alongside local and national organizations, Volunteer Odyssey has provided expertise on volunteerism to help companies show their commitment to Memphis through service. Fueled by our strong relationships with over 50 local nonprofits, we connect corporate groups to high-need nonprofits for service projects that meet the needs of the nonprofits and the corporations. We are proud to impact Memphis alongside other companies and nonprofits, from working with the Tennessee Titans for their 901 Day of Service to coordinating with International Paper and their Days of Caring initiatives at nonprofits across the city. We have experience planning, organizing, and coordinating groups of 10 volunteers and groups of 100+ volunteers, connecting them to nonprofits that align with their organization’s service pillars. These days of service provide companies with a team-building experience and allow employees to give back to their city in a uniquely beneficial way. 

Throughout our 10 years, we have worked with over 100 nonprofits. Our online volunteer platform has engaged more than 25,000 volunteers who have logged over 420,000 hours of service. We have matched hundreds of volunteers to their ideal experiences, and some have even gone on to work for the nonprofit they fell in love with serving. 

In late 2022, we hit our biggest milestone yet, 10 million dollars of economic impact for the city of Memphis. Every hour of volunteer service generates $26.02 for our city. This is calculated through the Independent Sector and the Do Good Institute as a way to help quantify the value of volunteers throughout the United States. While this will never fully encompass the impact of volunteers on individuals, families, nonprofits, and our city as a whole, it does help show the importance.  

All of this is possible because of you- our community members who volunteer, support local nonprofits, host days of service, and understand the crucial impact volunteers make in helping organizations meet the needs of our community. This year, we are celebrating 10 years of meeting community needs through service. We will have events all year, with our large day of service and celebration on April 15th. This pinnacle event will include a morning of volunteer service at 10 of our nonprofit partners and an afternoon of celebration at the Crosstown Concourse.  

You can stay up to date on what we are doing by subscribing to our newsletter, following us on Facebook, or volunteering with us. 

How to stay connected with us:

Join our newsletter

Follow us on Facebook


Donate to support our work

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.