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Volunteer Square matches willing helpers with charitable tasks

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As of October, unemployment in the county stood at 7.5 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The city of Bridgeport, Conn., has a whopping 12.5 percent unemployment rate.

Superstorm Sandy highlighted local needs. More than 6,000 people sought temporary housing, and the number of people needing access to food pantries also rose. Volunteer Square’s activity increased, Reese says.

In Fairfield County residents used the site's blog as one way to organize a beach cleanup. More than 1,000 volunteers turned up to clean a three-mile stretch of beach. In Darien, Conn., the nonprofit group Person-to-Person used the site to publicize the need for food donations in Stamford and Norwalk, Conn.

The uptick in activity came because of the storm but also because it's the start of the holiday season. Nonprofit agencies are often booked with volunteers six months out for Thanksgiving, Reese says.

“It’s so exciting to see this huge boost, but there’s a lot of need the other 364 days of the year,” she says. About 14 percent of Connecticut is “food insecure,” meaning families at times run short of food, according to a 2012 Connecticut Food Bank study.

Volunteer Square says it believes every citizen can contribute as a volunteer regardless of their age.

The centralized database lists about 100 organizations and more than 600 registered users. Participants range from agencies such as the American Red Cross to Home Front, LLC, a community-based home repair program that helps keep low-income people in their homes.

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