NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Two regional organizations are teaming up to increase volunteerism in Hampton Roads in hopes of making the quality of life better.

On Jan. 1, VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads will become an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber.

“I am thrilled about the future,” said VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads CEO Stephanie Gorham.

Gorham says it’s been a long conversation to get to the point.

It’s also been a long pandemic for the organization, which works to connect and provide volunteers for non-profits.

“We’ve been really busy. Volunteerism has not dropped,” she said. “People want to get involved. There’s been a huge need, a huge rise from non-profits that need volunteers. One of the things we’ve really noticed over the last 15 months is companies really wanting to get involved. Even when some weren’t able to get out, they wanted to be creative to do projects from their homes or remotely. It made us sit back for a second and think, we’ve been doing this for 65 years. Our largest pool is the workforce. Over the last 15 months, we’ve shifted our focus to making volunteerism easier for business.”

Being affiliated with the chamber will make it easier for VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads to focus on its mission, according to chamber President and CEO Bryan Stephens.

“It’s an arrangement that has mutual benefits. We want to make sure we’re bringing all the chamber assets and resources to help them accomplish their mission and expand their mission throughout Hampton Roads as far as volunteerism goes,” he said. “We think it’s the right thing for businesses to do and we hope to develop volunteerism throughout the business community in Hampton roads and VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads will do that.”

Stephens says they’ll take the administrative burden off the organization and help with financial management, human resources, and other duties.

He believes that in order for businesses to be successful, they need to give back to the community.

Giving back will in turn improve the quality of life, according to Stephens.

“Let’s say we have 1.7 million [people] in Hampton Roads. That’s hypothetical. If we have 100,000 that actively volunteer on a regular basis, what if we increase that to 250,000 or 500,000?” he said. “Think about the exponential effects that has to increase the quality of life of so many people here in Hampton Roads and make the quality of life so much better and that attracts businesses into the region.

Stephens says it also increased productivity.

“Businesses are in the business to make money. We understand that. They have to provide their product, their service to the best extent possible and they have to create revenue and share profit. That’s all great,” he said. “What we try to show them is if they create a culture of volunteerism in their labor force, they’ll be able to do those two things to a higher degree because they have a higher morale, higher proficiency. They feel like a team and they’re contributing to the greater good of the community.”

Old Dominion University’s State of the Commonwealth Report, economists found that Hampton Roads was recovering from the pandemic slower than other metro regions.

One of the issues was the shrinking labor force.

Gorham says that when businesses invest in giving back, it creates ties to the community making it more likely for people to stay.

“It’s harder to leave a community where you feel like your heart is there,” she said.

Gorham says the organization will work with businesses to create customized services for employers to help with corporate social responsibility and she’s excited about the potential number of volunteers that will emerge from this affiliation.

For more information about VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads, click here.