Dating Site That Hooks Up Volunteers Leads to a Valentine’s Day Wedding

Dating Site That Hooks Up Volunteers Leads to a Valentine’s Day Wedding

Volunteers getting married -submitted

He baked for others.

That’s a big reason why she put Michael Webber in her list of favorites on iHeartVolunteers, the dating site for service-minded people looking for love–he baked for the Peace Corps volunteers who would come through the town in Cambodia where he was serving.

“I really wanted somebody who valued hospitality, volunteerism, and the world being bigger than one’s self,” says Alexandria Price, also a former Peace Corps volunteer. “I could tell from his profile that he was sincere.”

So Price, a 33-year-old international development professional, gave him a shot. Even though she was living in Connecticut at the time and, from what she could tell, he was in China teaching English, she sent him a message.

Her experience on other dating sites prior to iHeartVolunteers had been mixed: was too overwhelming, the sexual expectations of Tinder too off-putting, and Christian Mingle was too…well, you get the point.

Price and Webber sent emails back and forth. They talked on Skype. They met in person, because coincidentally, Webber hadn’t left yet for China and was living in San Diego where Alex had family. Their first date was in a café – Webber brought her a batch of red velvet cookies – and that encounter kickstarted a love affair that has now lasted almost a year.

“She’s honest, caring, sensitive, incredibly hard working, and a total dork. What’s not to love?” Webber says. “I remember looking at engagement rings like a month after we’d met. When you know, you know.”

Webber is now in China; Price is finishing a tour of Nepal with her job. Through regular Skype dates they’ve become the ultimate digital couple, maintaining their love across oceans. They’re getting married today, on Valentine’s Day.

“I’m not surprised this happened so quickly,” said Shelly Zenner, co-founder of iHeartVolunteers.

Chris and Shelly Zenner, founded iHeartVolunteers

“Volunteers share interests and core values such as compassion, a sense of adventure, flexibility and most importantly the desire to help improve the lives of people and the communities in which they live,” says Chris, Shelly’s husband and co-founder. “Having so much in common right off the bat is a huge advantage when looking for a meaningful relationship.”

While there are other sites out there that do a similar sort of thing – CorpsSocial and YourCauseOrMine, for example – iHeartVolunteers stands out by not only giving 10% of their profits to the volunteer’s affiliated project or organization but by verifying the person’s volunteer experience to suss out phonies.

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To prove who you say you are, a third party screening company created by the Zenners contacts the organization and ask them straight up if you’ve donated your time or not – and the people on the other line never know it’s a dating site who’s calling.

The dating pool has 600 potential volunteers to choose from so far, scattered here and there in almost every U.S. state from Colorado to Connecticut – and some live as far away as Liberia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Aside from its built-in lie detector, iHeartVolunteers prides itself on being low cost. Active volunteers in long-term immersion programs such as Americorps are always free, and as the community grows, subscriptions will cost anywhere from $15.95 per month to $59.95 for six months.

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Eventually, they’re looking to host in-person events and offer volunteer opportunities as dates you can choose from. After seeing your date in action, if you don’t want to continue the relationship, at least you can say you did something good for the day.

Past or current volunteers are currently welcome to sign up for a free three-month subscription no matter where they live in the world.

Playing Cupid to the socially conscious, the Zenners hope to not only unite altruists like themselves–the pair actually fell in love while serving in the Peace Corps together– but actually increase volunteerism in the world.

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“Good people meeting good people are likely to do more good together,” Shelly says.

They might just increase the pool of volunteers too, with couples maybe raising children attuned to community service.

Celeste Hamilton Dennis is an editor at the digital arts activism publication, OF NOTE Magazine, and a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon.