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The spirit of service
by Jessica Carner
Aug 07, 2011 | 4146 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne
Volunteer Debbie McCarthy, NP Catalyst founder Pete Parker and CEO of Nevada volunteers, Shawn Lecker — Pomaville talk about the importance of volunteerism last week at a Reno coffee shop.
Tribune/John Byrne Volunteer Debbie McCarthy, NP Catalyst founder Pete Parker and CEO of Nevada volunteers, Shawn Lecker — Pomaville talk about the importance of volunteerism last week at a Reno coffee shop.
By Jessica Carner

RENO — Today’s depressed economy is enough to give just about anyone the blues, but one Reno man has found a solution — serving others.

Pete Parker, founder of NPCatalyst, began the “Summer of Service” campaign in northern Nevada on June 1. The effort has gained national attention and NPCatalyst is now in the running for a CLASSY Award, one of the most prestigious philanthropic accolades in the country.

The “Summer of Service” campaign was created to increase community volunteerism efforts in northern Nevada during the three months of summer. NPCatalyst partnered with Nevada Volunteers, the governor’s nonprofit commission for volunteer service information, and what began as a social media campaign to post volunteer opportunities for 100 people quickly exploded into 15,000 opportunity listings.

“Summer of Service is about providing volunteer opportunities and the spirit of service,” Parker said.

According to the NPCatalyst website,, the company provides services to strengthen relationships between donors and charities, match donors to charities and bolster non-profit leadership and funding.

Parker said there are a number of reasons NPCatalyst started the “Summer of Service” movement, but one of the most important was strengthening the community by enlisting local youth as well as visitors to northern Nevada in volunteer efforts.

“Nevada has one of the lowest volunteerism rates in the nation,” Parker said. “Summer of Service is about providing the opportunity for people to volunteer and to create awareness to raise the low volunteerism rate in the state.”

Grooming the next generation of leaders in service is vital to economic recovery, Parker said. In June, NPCatalyst issued a press release calling on everyone to get involved in serving others, citing the economic impact of volunteerism as an incentive.

“The volunteerism rate of 20.6 percent of all Nevadans ranked as the lowest in the United States last year,” the release stated. “Yet, the economic impact in northern Nevada from this low rate was an astonishing $266.5 million. Imagine the economic impact if 30 percent of northern Nevadans volunteered … it could surpass $300 million.”

“This is a no-cost solution for both residents and local non-profit organizations,” the NPCatalyst website states.

The “Summer of Service” is about uniting citizens, businesses and government to provide opportunities for citizens to give back to their communities, Parker said.

“There’s always a need for volunteers,” said Shawn Lecker-Pomaville, CEO of Nevada Volunteers, which administers AmeriCorps programs and yearly hosts the Governor’s Points of Light Awards to honor citizens, organizations and businesses that have provided service to the state.

Debbie McCarthy, who this year has been nominated for a Governor’s Points of Light Award (Parker is a former winner), said she encourages everyone to get involved in service in some capacity.

“Anybody can go to the (Summer of Service) website or call Nevada Volunteers and find out what you need to do,” McCarthy said. “Find out what you are good at and start with an hour of service and go from there … Then just do it. Get brave. Get out of your comfort zone.”

McCarthy began volunteering in northern Nevada in 1994 when she moved to Reno from California. She said she was nervous at first, but began by feeding the hungry and lending assistance to the homeless.

“I’ve done work for St. Albert’s Catholic Church, Project Restart, Kids to Seniors Korner, Catholic Charities and Feed the Homeless,” McCarthy said, just to name a few.

Finding a need and fulfilling that need in the community is McCarthy’s passion.

“Everybody says you get more than you give,” McCarthy said. “But the joy I get from looking in the eyes of someone receiving goes right to my heart.”

Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends and could lead to job opportunities, she said.

“In this economy, it might turn into a job,” McCarthy said, adding she has landed several jobs as a result of her volunteer efforts.

“We want Nevada to be known for its volunteerism,” Parker said.

To find out about volunteer opportunities in the community, visit

NPCatalyst has been selected as one of the top 25 in StayClassy’s “Philanthropic Small Business of the Year” category for the 2011 awards, which will be given out on Sept. 17 in San Diego. Online voting to select the winner in this and almost a dozen other categories is going on now and will close Aug. 26.

To cast your vote for NPCatalyst, go to
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