Thursday, October 20, 2011

Make a Difference!

Today something reminded me of work I did long, long ago on the other side of PA working with Volunteerism. There, the County Commissioners had a vision to promote volunteerism. Under a Human Services Development grant, they hired me as a consultant to promote volunteer involvement in two counties. Along with some dedicated volunteers, I had the privilege of working with amazing people - paid and unpaid - providing many services in the community. My job was connecting people and telling their stories. How very cool!!!
We became a center for recruiting, training, and advocating for volunteer programs. Well organized, long term volunteer driven programs quickly began helping smaller and newer programs. Our center provided a volunteer bank for one time, unusual or short term needs.
Tonight I am reminded of some of the more touching stories that linger these 25 or so years later. I got a call from a man one day saying he had heard the radio ad calling for volunteers. Would I meet him in the parking lot of my office in 15 minutes? He would be in a red pick up truck. In 15 minutes a pick up truck arrived and I walked up to his door. He said, 'I can pick up and deliver anything you need done, but someone needs to be waiting to load and unload the truck." He opened the door to reveal that he had no legs. He was on disability. But he wanted to serve the community that had served him.
Another day a woman called to say she was house bound but she loved to make personalized cards to send to people. She didn't know how that might help and she might need postage but she would like to do cards for people. I was working with all of the nursing homes in the area and asked if they had people who didn't get visitors or mail. (This might not be possible today but...) I got lists of names of people who started receiving personal greeting cards to brighten their day. And I found donors for postage.
Another day a middle aged women entered my office in tears. She was blindsided by a divorce and had not worked in 25 years. She needed to get back to work but had nothing on her resume. Could I help? She believed she had the skills to be an office manager, but had nothing to show she could. There was a well known and respected organization looking for a part time volunteer office manager. We let them know that she was trying to get experience for her resume and might not be there long term. They understood, loved her service, and within a year she had a full time job as an office manager. When I saw her the second time, she was a new woman.
What I learned in those short years is that volunteerism is as much about serving personal needs for dignity and respect as it is about serving the community. As we ask people to serve, we need to do all we can to serve their needs as well. It's a two way street. When we recognize that and serve that need, everyone gets a chance to make a difference - Those who ask and those who answer the call!

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