It’s not easy doing non-profit work. They get paid the least and are always wondering where the funds are going to come from to keep the good work that they are doing for the communities they help. People who work in non-profits work tireless hours with all walks of life and have to wear many different hats, sometimes every single hat and those that work for non-profits are there because it is a calling and need they have within them to serve. This is why it is so perfect that Ginger Harris is the Executive Director of Serve Houston, where she serves non-profits with volunteers year round.
Ginger Harris grew up in Louisiana and Arkansas. Ginger has a wide smile, calm demeanor, a great sense of humor and is the sort of person you feel at ease with instantly. It’s no wonder she has been working in non-profit for her entire adult life. The summer before she was going off to college to study medical technology, she came to Houston to do a summer internship with Mission Centers of Houston where she worked within the Inner City of Houston, and it was life changing for her. During this immersion program, where she lived in the inner city, it was the first time she saw poverty and realized that the middle-class small-town world that she was from didn’t represent the world. It was foundational in her decision to pursue the path of serving people.
She went to Louisiana College and got her degree in Sociology and Christian Education and spent her summers traveling the globe and helping people. Ginger knew that she wanted to work in an urban environment and that she wanted to work for a faith-based organization and balance her work life with her spiritual life. For a small town girl, Ginger had no problems branching out and traveling and has done and seen some pretty amazing things.
She spent a summer in Hong Kong teaching English as a second language to college students in a conversational way. She’s gone to Ecuador twice into the Andes Mountains into untouched villages with medical relief packs. Ginger traveled to Kenya twice and went to an orphanage where all the kids had come out of an environment where all of the children’s parents had either been killed in war or the kids had been put there because they had been abused. And, the first time Ginger went to Kenya, she did manual labor in the orphanage.
When the opportunity came up for Ginger to apply for a job with Mission Centers of Houston, she was thrilled. This was where it had all begun for her with her first summer internship, and now they wanted her to work for them full time. This was her dream job, and she moved to Houston and spent 12 years working with Mission Centers of Houston.
She first joined the board of Serve Houston in 2014 and was brought on as a consultant type capacity. Ginger loved the idea and the concept, but she also didn’t want to split her time and attention between two entities. Eventually, she realized she could Serve Houston and the greater good by making the move to running the program.
Serve Houston is unlike any other non-profit in the city of Houston. The premise is that when you run a non-profit, there is never enough money to serve, and you end up wearing so many hats that you are overworked, underpaid and get burnt out. Serve Houston takes tasks off the table for the non-profit by placing volunteers to help where they are needed. Here is where they are different, although they put volunteers in place for events and large projects, Serve Houston specializes in placing skills-based volunteers.
Serve Houston has 10 skills based categories, covering everything from web design to research and grant writing, and they have developed a comprehensive skill set card game, where they narrow down their top three skill set categories and then narrows down even further to the top 5 things each volunteer would like to do based on the needs of the non-profits and those are all put in the database. The non-profits go through a similar process, which is very exhaustive, to find out exactly what is needed and is repeated yearly. Once the non-profit has finished the diagnostic, a volunteer project manager is assigned to the non-profit and goes through the needs and puts together a timeline based on the categories that Serve Houston has and this is then given to Serve Houston. Serve Houston then provides the volunteers as they are needed for these non-profits based on these timelines and needs as they arise within the non-profits.
Serve Houston serves 11 non-profits currently, and the volunteers are mostly millennials, but Ginger Harris is hoping to not only grow her stable of non-profits but also to expand her stable of volunteers. They recruit by having gatherings, take the burden off the non-profits by doing all the administrative and infrastructure work for the non-profits, so the can Serve Houston. And, Serve Houston is free to non-profits and volunteers!
Serve Houston is an idea that has bloomed and is brilliant for those small non-profits that don’t have the staff to do work that needs to be done, and if you are interested in volunteering in a way that highlights your skills, Serve Houston is the place to go.