The Voluntary Action Center was incorporated in June of 1980 with the mission of helping other non-profit agencies find volunteers. Mrs. Mary Ann Lavender was elected President of the Board of Trustees. The office was a one small room in the corner of the VIA offices on Columbus Avenue. There was no paid staff. When financing became available through the United Way in 1982, Mrs. Lavender stepped down from the presidency and became the first Executive Director, a part time position. The VAC moved into a separate office in the Feick Building on Market Street in 1983, purchased a computer system, hired a part-time office person and built a financial reserve that allowed some stability.
In 1986, Kay Wright was hired as director, a position that became full-time in January of 1987. In the fall of 1987 the agency changed its name to The Volunteer Center to more clearly define its role in the community. Increased United Way funding, corporate and foundation support has allowed the agency to move into a larger office, add a sophisticated computer system and several new programs including Volunteer of the Month and the JCPenney Golden Rule Awards.
In April of 1993, the Lavender Award for Excellence was established to acknowledge outstanding volunteer programs and to honor the memory of Mary Ann Lavender. A $1,000 grant accompanies the award funded through an endowment made by Dr. Fred Lavender and his family. In 1999, the amount was increased to $2,000.
Barbara A. Hargreaves became the Executive Director in 1996. In 1997, plans were initiated to put together a DUI documentary video for school use. In 2001, “Never Again” a 20-minute video was produced. It required $16,000 in funding and was used in 3 day DUI lockdown schools in a 5 county area. In early 2002 “Never Again” was the recipient of a Videographers award from a national group in Texas, and in June of 2002 it was selected for an “Excellence in Communication” award from the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC.
In October 2002, the office was moved to 174 East Market Street and a Business Volunteer Council was added. This group met monthly. A nonprofit director was invited to speak to the group about their specific volunteer needs in the hopes that businesses will promote volunteerism among their employees. This ran from about 2002 to 2010.
In April of 2003, Gabriele Beck assumed the position of Executive Director.
The Volunteer Center was asked to assume a leadership role in Women’s Network, a program run by the Sandusky Career Center in Spring of 2004. The Center continues to run this program in partnership with EHOVE Career Center.
In the fall of 2005, The Volunteer Center was asked by the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation to be the coordinating agency for a Grant Writing program. This program, sponsored by the Frost Parker and Dorn Foundations provides Erie County not-for-profits the opportunity to hire a professional grant writer to research, write or evaluate grants at a greatly reduced cost. In 2010, this program under the guidance of Deb Sutter became a Cooperating Collection of the Foundation Center. In the Spring of 2006, the fall 2005 Make A Difference Day project- Erie County Makes a Difference was selected for recognition as one of the top ten projects in the state. It was chosen out of a field of 905 projects.
In 2009, the youth program under the leadership of Brandy Bennett was changed to the format of "Kid's Care Clubs". Teachers receive a monthly newsletter listing classroom volunteer opportunities giving the class to select a monthly volunteer project. In December 2010, The Volunteer Center moved to the second floor of the Red Cross building at 300 Central Ave. in Sandusky. Amy Porter lead The Volunteer Center from 2012-2015.
Karen Camella proudly assumed the role of Executive Director in 2015. Under her leadership the agency continues to work to find creative solutions to the community's problems and needs. An updated volunteer management system was launched in April 2016, to help community members find opportunities to volunteer within our community: erie.voly.org! In October 2016, the youth program was selected by generationOn! as a 2016 Kids Care Club of the Year! Following that recognition, State Representative Steven M. Arndt, officially recognized The Volunteer Center in the Ohio General Assembly.
In November 2016, The Volunteer Center of Erie County relocated to its current address, 604 W. Washington Street, Sandusky, Ohio.