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Holiday Events as Volunteer Recognition Opportunities

Thanks into Thanksgiving
This fall I decided to put the Thanks into Thanksgiving by sending out hand-made notes to each active volunteer. A very artistic volunteer helped me to make the notes - no two were the same! Then I wrote a short Thanks inside making sure to mention specific things that they had helped with. In addition, I had people from the departments they had volunteered in add something - at the least signing it. They went out right at Thanksgiving and the responce has been lovely, with vounteers coming in specially to thank us for making their day! A Win-win, I think!
Submitted by Heidi Walker, Coordinator of Volunteers, Natrona County Public Library, Wyoming

Volunteers are the Recipe for Success
Every year we have a potluck holiday party and our volunteers have asked us to print up the recipes from their various co-workers who brought dishes. This year, we created a blank recipe form and mailed it to each volunteer asking for their best recipe. We then compiled the recipes into a cookbook that would be given to each volunteer as a gift at the recognition event. The theme was centered around cooking so we held it at a rustic venue in the country and printed awards on paper designed to look like a picnic. Instead of the generic thank you speeches from the volunteer coordinators, the Executive Director and members of the Board, we created a skit on "What is the recipe that makes up an ideal volunteer" and each official stood up and told the crowd what they think that recipe would be (a cup of smiles mixed with a teaspoon of wit...etc). The message at the end of the skit was that there is not just one recipe that makes up an ideal volunteer. Instead there are many recipes that include the different traits, personalities and styles that make the volunteers so necessary and unique. In the end, we concluded that each volunteer and his/her unique traits are equally valuable in ensuring a successful volunteer program. Kind of like a big, gourmet potluck...

Submitted by Miranda Prescott & Rachael Park, Volunteer Coordinators, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, Washington, USA

Volunteer Luck
Our volunteer dinner last year was held on March 13 using a St. Patrick's Day Theme because we feel 'lucky' to have our volunteers. We used green derby's planted with green and white carnations for centerpieces. Planning ahead we planted shamrock bulbs in green spray painted peat pots as favors at each place setting. We had prints of different Irish Blessings rolled and tied with green ribbon by each plate. Our menu was corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, green salad, and grasshopper pie. For entertainment we had a local clogging group perform. Awards and recognitions were given. Two staff members then sang 'Oh, Danny Boy". To give away the centerpieces we had some silly questions and trivia questions that we asked...such as who: 1. has 13 pennies in their pocket 2. has visited Ireland 3. has an Irish Setter at home 4. knows the legend of St. Patrick 5. showered with Irish Spring today etc, etc. I closed with the Irish Blessing: May the road rise up to meet y! ou... It was another successful program suggested by the words of praise and thank you notes we received.

Submitted by Jayne Rice, Director of Community Programming and Volunteers, Honeywell Center

Low-Cost, High-Impact Life-Changing Recognition
This past year, our program lost one of its most beloved volunteers. One month shy of her 90th birthday, she worked two days a week in our laboratory and at one of the hospital information desks. Though frailer in the past few months, she was still at the hospital working the week before she died. At word of her passing, I called the family, to inquire about funeral arrangements. The daughter-in-law informed me that there would likely be no memorial service, because, in her words, "she (the volunteer)didn't really have any friends here." I assured her that the volunteer circle of friends was sizeable, and included many fellow volunteers and hospital staff. The family eventually decided to have a service. Other than family and a few other attendees, the pews were filled exclusively with volunteers and hospital staff. The family was shocked that so many people knew and loved their quiet little mom, and that they had never known about this support system of friends, despite her seven years of involvement as a volunteer at our hospital! Something about this experience troubled me greatly. I fear that many children and spouses, especially of our older volunteers, see their volunteer activities as just something for them to do to keep busy. They really have no idea that their loved ones are doing important, valuable work with our patients. I wanted to find a way to avoid a scene like this with others in our program, if at all possible. Volunteers were asked for the names and addresses of their immediately family - spouses, children, or close friends. They were not told the exact reason for the information - ironically, many assumed we were gathering next of kin info, in the event of their death on the job! With those names, we created a family database. At Christmas, instead of the usual inspirational letter to volunteers, talking about the meaning of the season and their wonderful deeds throughout the year, I wrote letters to each of these on the mailing list. I told them about what their wife, mother, brother, etc. did at our hospital, and how important they were in the lives of our staff, patients and families. Many of those who received letters have called, and told very touching stories of how they read the tributes to "their" volunteer at a family gathering during the holidays. Several said they had the letter framed, and gave it as a gift to their loved one. The volunteers had no idea this was happening, and were moved beyond words. In over 25 years of managing volunteers, I have never done any recognition activity that has had a more profound impact on the timbre of our program, and on the lives of our volunteers! Obviously, this was quite time-consuming (I wrote about 150+ letters), but extremely high-impact on the recipients and, as a bonus, on the author. It really made my holiday season very meaningful. I will continue to look for opportunities to communicate the countless ways our volunteers make a difference to the other people who care so much about them - their families.

Submitted by LouAnne Smith, Volunteer Coordinator, Doctors Hospital of Dallas

Staff-Made Dinner
I work for an AIDS Service organization where volunteers give their time in a variety of programs and services. Every year we have an annual holiday party for volunteers which has always been an open house style event. This year I asked the staff to help plan something a bit more ambitious - we cooked and served a full course meal! The menu was a choice of turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or a vegetarian pasta dish. Staff volunteered to cook the various dishes, turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, etc., or contributed buns, cranberry sauce, salad dressing, etc. The staff were all assigned jobs; cooks, plate fillers, servers, etc., and all of the staff wore black pants, white shirts and colorful name tags. We had a Christmas tree with donated gifts underneath and drew names for a chance to pick a gift. We utilized space in our multi-purpose room and set beautiful places using rented cutlery and plates. Everyone contributed decorations and we had plenty of candlelight and twinkle lights strung up. Our physicians offered grace and a toast to the volunteers that reaffirmed their value within our organization. All in all, it was a tremendous gift of caring by the staff, and a wonderful experience in feeling appreciated by the volunteers!

Submitted by Corrie McGibney, Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Village Clinic

Thanks at Thanksgiving
The week before Thanksgiving, the Center always recognizes the volunteers with a catered meal and music as a way to show our appreciation and thanks. This year the theme was "Handful of Thanks" with decorations, centerpieces and even the certificates adorned with cookie cutter dough hands. I gave a speech incorporating hands as the theme (right hand men and women, hand you can rely on, etc). The highlight though was the many frail older clients (the receivers of the voluteerism) giving testomonials as to how there lives are better because of these wonderful volunteers.

Submitted by M. Judith Nortman, Director, Westside Senior Adult Day Center

Personal Note from Board
Our Board of Directors has a Volunteer Services Committee. These members write a personal, handwritten note to each volunteer who donates anything over four hours during a year. The committee members are given enough information to let them know what work the volunteer has done. The notes are written around Thanksgiving and around Valentine's Day, for those who started volunteering after Thanksgiving. We have recently added a printed note to all our one-time volunteers with the personal signature of the committee chair. This wonderful tradition, which is above and beyond the annual Volunteer Recognition Party, wasn't started by me, but I am happy to be apart of an agency with such caring board members. Submitted by Marty Atherton, Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Families First Thanksgiving Day Cards Thanksgiving Day cards to the families of volunteers. The response from the volunteers was terrific.

Submitted by Mike Corbin, Director of Volunteer Services, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan


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