Monday, May 20, 2013

Volunteering—a win-win for everyone!


Volunteerism is a family value that children learn from their parents and grandparents.  Our friends Derrick and Bubba Legg coach Special Olympics and their kids’ basketball teams, just as their parents, Stan and Merlynn Legg, gave years of their lives to 4-H and other youth groups when our children were young.

My Dad wasn't a member of the Lions Club or the Rotary Club. But he was a great volunteer.

On winter nights, between rounds as a night watchman at a sawmill, he loaded his pickup truck with cull wood—which would have been burned as waste—and later took it to needy folks with wood stoves.

The face of volunteerism is changing, and our communities are scrambling to pick up the slack.  A recent report noted that nowadays, fewer people join service clubs, but large numbers still turn out for efforts such as “Paint the Town.” 

The fact is, we need both kinds of volunteers. We need folks who go about quietly doing good, scheduling a service day now and then, and we need organized groups which carry out long-term plans that benefit the community—such as the Exchange Club’s yearly Parade America in Nampa, scheduled May 18. 

What would hospitals, schools, libraries, museums, churches, retirement centers, sports teams and youth groups do without volunteers?  City and county governments rely heavily on volunteers to serve on boards and commissions that assist such departments as planning and zoning, airports, the arts, storm water management and so on.

Are you voting on May 21?  Folks who serve on election boards are paid a little, but they have to sign up!  They are the same people who cook meals for bereaved families, tutor kids for free, and make quilts for the needy. Many take a day off from their regular work to assist at the polls.

On the ballot, we see volunteers—often, we vote for them.  In a school board election, many vote for the person who has served long and hard in a parent-teacher organization or with youth groups. In local government, most would vote for the person who has sacrificed hours of time and study in setting budgets, listening to all sides of a problem, and solving difficult challenges on a board or commission above the person who just has an axe to grind.

Studies show that volunteering not only benefits the community, but also provides profound psychological benefits to those who volunteer. Energizeinc.com offers these tongue-in-cheek reasons to volunteer:

  • When you stay home, you get too many telemarketing calls.
  • Your family could use a break from you.
  • You may need help yourself some day.
  • It’s hard to win a game of solitaire.
  • Soap operas all sound alike.
  • If you don’t go out each day, you get old.
  • The car needs a workout.
  • Your mom would be proud of you.
  • Who cares about money?
Don't think you need more skills to be a volunteer--remember, "Noah's ark was built by amateur volunteers. The Titanic was built by professionals."