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Volunteer Nation: Nonprofits that made a difference in 2014

New York National Guard members and their battle

New York National Guard members and their battle buddies from Afghanistan — Sheba and her seven puppies — were reunited in September 2013 by Guardians of Rescue: From left, Travis Burton, Cincinnati; Kevin Singer, Freeport; Clinton Green (with Sheba), Staten Island; Edwin Caba; Alex Rontondi, upstate Jamesville; and Joseph Lapenta, Staten Island. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. Another truism is that it takes a village of volunteers to look after neighbors and fellow Long Islanders in need.

2014 marked the second year of the monthly Volunteer Nation series, which highlights local nonprofits that are making a difference in the lives of Long Islanders.

As the Volunteer Nation series enters its third year, Newsday will revisit some of the 24 nonprofits featured in LI Life and get updates on what they've accomplished or have added to their plates.

Today we check in with Pop.Earth, a Garden City-based nonprofit that uses holistic methods to offer support to families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. Pop.Earth had a lot of goals founder Debbie Stone wanted to check off her to-do list for 2014. Since being featured last January, the nonprofit has made great strides in reaching its benchmarks.


'HEART and SOUL'

For those on the front lines of volunteerism, their role in lifting their communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties cannot be underestimated.

"Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations on Long Island and critical to sustaining programs as well as creating opportunities to expand services," said Diana O'Neill, executive director of the Long Island Volunteer Center in Hempstead. "Organizations treasure their volunteers as human assets that go beyond a balance sheet. Volunteers are ambassadors giving a heart and soul to the mission."

The mission reaches far and wide on Long Island: helping needy girls attend summer camp; giving women a boost up the career ladder and into the job market; seeking a cure for a rare form of albinism; helping veterans and the pets they love, both of whom have lived life in a war zone; illuminating the history of a historic lighthouse.

In 2014, the Volunteer Nation series included local companies with a strong volunteer ethic as part of their mission statements. Ronkonkoma-based NBTY shares its nutritional bounty on Long Island and around the globe; Melville-based elder law firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona grants wishes to seniors in need; and eyewear manufacturer Marchon, also based in Melville, has a vision to improve the eyesight of those locally and abroad.

Helping others is not new to the big-hearted private and corporate citizens on Long Island, and the effect is not lost on those who promote volunteerism.

"The kindness of a stranger can sometimes be the most profound gift of all, and volunteers can find themselves in situations where the quality of life for someone depended on that single act of giving," O'Neill said. "These moments help build community, and the ripple effect can be exponential."

To learn more about those featured in the series, go to newsday.com/lilife.

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