(Words to Inspire)
True stories of personal volunteer-related experiences from colleagues.
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The Greatest Gift of all Time is Time
For a fulltime worker and mother of three, it seems unlikely that one would take time out of his or her busy schedule to volunteer, but Hope Cooper believes volunteering is a part of her civic duty. Hope Cooper, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, serves as the scholarship chairperson for Varina High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA). Cooper’s role as the scholarship chairperson consists of her creating a scholarship application to reward a deserving Varina High School senior with a scholarship for college. Cooper says, “I usually rush to the PTSA meetings right after I leave my fulltime job, but it is important for me to be there. Following the meeting, I have to rush home and cook dinner for my own children.”
None of Cooper’s children attend Varina High School, but she says, “Volunteering is not all about benefiting the people you know best, but it’s about helping those complete stranger who need you most.” Cooper chose to volunteer for Varina as the scholarship chairperson because she understands the condition of the economy is discouraging students from pursing a higher institution of learning. Cooper stated that she no longer views her task as the scholarship chairperson as volunteer work, but she believe it’s her obligation to lift some financial stress off of at least one family. Cooper says “I have a daughter that will go off to college in two years, and I can empathize with those parents who want to send their child off to college but just can’t afford it. What do they tell their children?” She says although she cannot help out every student, helping out one deserving student is rewarding.
Cooper says that volunteering makes a difference in the community; “It’s one of those things that leaves you with a good feeling.” Cooper states that volunteering does not only make a difference in the community, but it changed her perspective on what is important in life. It reminded her that the world is much bigger than her. She encourages everyone to find something that they are passionate about and become involved in it. Cooper says that volunteer work may seem simple to one but means so much to those who are affected by it. Cooper plans to continue volunteering and to get her children more involved.
Submitted by Dianna Murchison
A Lion Amoung Lambs
As a member of the Lions Clubs International, the world's largest service organization, I am part of a team responsible (in Pennsylvania)to educate fellow Lions on how to recruit, retain and expand membership. Five years ago, in a seminar, I was asked how I became a volunteer. After a moment I stated that I thought I was born a volunteer, thanks to my parents and grandparents. My husband and his family can say the same. Their community involvement in the volunteer fire department and churches was only part of it. The most important teaching tool was they they did the right thing by their families and friends. Odd jobs, cooking a meal, driving elders to appointments or for groceries...my family did it all, and so did we, their children. Now their grandchildren and greats are sharing the same sense of "doing the right thing". My 22 year career with a hospice program has allowed me to accomplish some of those gracious tasks.
Submitted by Gayle Padfield
Just a Little Can Make A Difference in Another's Life...and in Your Own
Many years ago, while I was employed full time at a busy job, and also being a newly married lady, I gave of my time, talent and energy at a mental institution in our town. The joy I found and the satisfaction I felt was overwhelming. At first it was somewhat scary to be in this environment, never having had anyone compromised in this way in my family circle or circle of friends--but I had a reason for doing this.
I learned from this valuable time how to deal and cope with these situations and how to work with them. I volunteered in a locked-up environment which was also overwhelming at first.
To my surprise, I found out that a friend of my parents from many years back was a resident of this facility, and that when I was a baby, this lady had wanted to keep me as she was unable to have children. I brought this lady up to date with pictures, brought her special items and brought her up to current times. The time came when she was able to piece things together, and she said to me one day "please dear, you should not come here, as this is not a place for you," but I wanted to bring something into this lady's life. Together, after much time, we had closed up the years. I was told that she would have been able to be released from the facility, but because she had no family to go to, she couldn't leave. But I did bring her to my home on two occasions for afternoon refreshments, and I saw the joy of this lady "feeling a part of life." I have never forgotten this volunteering experience. This lady later passed away but I have the fulfillment in my life of having done just a little to make a difference in the life of one person.
I felt so humbled by this, and I give all thanks and praise to my Lord for directing me, and for my mother telling me the story of why this lady was where she was. I was the volunteer and this is the story as best I recall it.
Submitted by Sylvia Jones
In working as the Volunteer Coordinator for Domestic Violence Services, where it is my main job to see that our Crisis Line is staffed at all times, I have started referring to Crisis Line workers as A.N.G.E.L.s, which stand for "Always Needed Gentle Enthusiastic Listeners." They are the back bone of our agency.
Submitted by Mandy Standard
A volunteer recently arrived in our new City Hall just days after an extensive staff meeting discussing building security and workplace violence. He was with his job counselor, and they were to interview with me for a possible volunteer position. I had previously asked about skills, and this particular volunteer brought a sample of his handiwork. He brandish a huge machete-type knife that he had made out of car bumpers. Our Human Resources director was passing by my office just as he held up the knife. Unknown to me,immediately there was a clustering at the end of the hall to decide what should be done. I later advised the job counselor that the next time they visit a public building, they should leave anything that looks like a weapon behind!
Submitted by Paula Anderson, Coordinator of Volunteer Services; City of Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
The Greatest Gift I ever Gave, and Received
I sat in Mia's tiny second floor bedroom, as I had every Thursday afternoon for the past year--I, Mia's hospice volunteer, and she, my 37-year-old hospice patient, dying of a rare blood disease. We talked, as we always did, of Mia's 18-year-old son and his most recent antics. We watched the Young and the Restless. I lit Mia's cigarettes, carefully making sure the ashes didn't fall and burn her T-shirt. "Do you want to write in your Memory book this week, Mia?" "No," she quietly replied. "Not this week." As our visit was ending and I was getting ready to leave, Mia, somewhat anxiously, commented on the two bracelets I was wearing on my right wrist, the same two bracelets I had been wearing on my right wrist, every day, for the last 15 years--my cherishe "button bracelets," one gold and one silver, given to me by my parents when I graduated from college. "Sally, those bracelets are so pretty, so different-let me try one on-please?" Without hesitation, I "unbuttoned" my silver bracelet and fastened it on Mia's thin and fragile wrist. Mia held her wrist up to her eyes and began to cry. "Mia, what is it, why are you crying, what's wrong?" "This is the nicest present anyone has ever given me." Mia tearfully said. "Thank you, Sally. Thank you so much. I'll never-ever-take it off." My stomach felt tight and my heart began to beat uncomfortably fast. Present? What was Mia thinking? I gave her my bracelet to try on, NOT to keep. But she's crying, she's so happy; I can't take it from her now.... I gave Mia a big hug and told her I would be honored for her to keep my bracelet, and wear it, and never take it off. I then turned and left, walked down the stairs and out the front door, never to return again. Mia died before my next visit. That last day with Mia, we gave gifts to each other, though I didn't know it at the time. I gave Mia my most cherished button bracelet, a piece of me, to keep close to her as she took her final steps from this world to the next. In turn, Mia gave me the gift of Living. For, everyday, when I look at my single gold button bracelet, alone on my right wrist, I think of Mia. I think about how life is limited and can be taken from us well before we are ready to leave it. I remember to live every day as if it were my last, without regrets and to the fullest. To Mia, I thank you......
--Sally Hess, Johns Hopkins Hospice Volunteer
Submitted by Jean McHale, Volunteer Coordinator, Johns Hopkins Home Hospice, Baltimore, MD USA
Looking Past Your Own Pain
I met a dreamer-catcher in the most unusual way. I was sitting in my office in the basement of the Hospital, far away from patients, when I got this request. "Lisa can you come up to Turner 4 to speak with a patient? I went to the room they were calling from and there sat a women hooked up to her chemotherapy drip. She was so happy that I had taken time to come and speak with her. Through her battle with cancer she kept wondering how she could give back for all the kindness and caring she had received. This patient was also a professor at the local College, so she was wondering if she could bring her students in to volunteer? We came up with a group project for her freshman class that needed to complete community service requirements. They planned and implemented a weekly activities session for our rehabilitation unit. Evenings of games, refreshments and craft projects were organized. Patients benefited greatly from the opportunities to socialize and participate in rehabilitative recreation. Through all this- their fearless leader went through more chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery, yet always stayed focused on how she could help others and inspire her students to do the same! She was a dreamer that didn't let her own problems stop her from reaching out and helping others
Submitted by Lisa Coble, Newport Hospital Manager of Volunteer Services, Newport RI
I am an AmeriCorps*VISTA at a local elementary school in Clay County West Virginia. One of my volunteers is a very dedicated grandmother. Her daughter works so she has picked up the volunteering at the grandson's school. She is wonderful. Both her and her husband volunteer and her daughter volunteers when she can. This woman was in a very serious car accident last school year. She now has to wear a very stiff back brace. She is always in constant pain but she never complains, she is always at the school helping in the office. She is the Vice President of the PTO. She is still really active. It is such an inspiration to me to look at her and see that she hasn't given up. She still knows what she needs to do to make her grandsons education a real success.
Submitted by Beth Anderson, AmeriCorps*VISTA, West Virginia
My husband worked many hours as a volunteer at the nursing home where I worked as the recreation director (we are caucasian). There was an 86 year-old African-American lady who, despite her dementia diagnosis, had gotten my husband into her long term memory. Hattie always talked about Cab Calloway, expressing how much she enjoyed his music and telling us that her grandson played with Cab Calloway (no, he probably didn't, but who knows). When I saw an article in the paper that Cab Calloway had died, I showed it to Hattie. She said, "Oh, Lord. Where's your husband?" I called my husband and asked him to come to the nursing home because Hattie was asking for him. When my husband arrived, Hattie showed him the newspaper. He responded that he knew how much Hattie thought of Cab Calloway and how much she enjoyed his music. Hattie said, "Well, it's time you knew. That's your real father."
--The Manor at Blue Water Bay Nursing Home
Submitted by Lori Pyers-Goodwin, Director of Community Education - Sprenger Retirement Centers, Ohio
Beyond Power and Wealth
I recently came across this from a speech given by Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UK, and I thought others might find it interesting and inspiring.
Imagine that you have total power, and you decide to share it with nine other people. How much do you have left? One tenth of what you began with.
Imagine you have a sum of money, and you decide to share it with nine other people. How much do you have left? One tenth of what you began with.
Now suppose you have a certain amount of love or friendship or influence or ideals and you decide to share those with nine other people, and you do share them, do you have more or less than you began with? You probably have ten times as much.
It follows immediately from this little exercise in arithmetic
that power and wealth will always generate conflict. The more of
them I have, the less of them you have, and the more I give you,
the less I have. Therefore governments and markets are mediated
arenas of conflict: the one mediated by democratic elections, the
other mediated by market and exchange. But those other covenantal
areas of love, friendship, trust, marriage, loyalty, faithfulness,
they are not arenas of conflict. And now we can say what is created
distributed in our houses of worship, and in communities, neighbourhoods, voluntary organisations, above all in the family: namely, spiritual goods.
And now we can also say precisely what has gone wrong in
our social ecology in the past 50 years. We made a simple, well-intentioned
assumption. But a wrong one. Namely, that there are only two institutions
that can deal with social problems, either the state or the market.
Some on the left prefer the state, some on the
right prefer the market, but on the most fundamental point they both agree, and they are both wrong, namely that the state and market are all there is.
So what else is there? To which the answer is, there are families, congregations, faith communities, fellowships, neighbourhoods, voluntary organisations - all of which are bigger than the individual, but smaller than the state. They operate on a different logic.
Families and communities are held together not by the coercive
use of power, not by the contractual mechanisms of exchange, but
by love, loyalty, faithfulness and mutuality: being there for one
another when we need one another. I call them "third-sector"
institutions. And without that third sector, there will be problems
governments nor markets can solve.
Submitted by Rob Jackson, Officer (Regional Fundraising) Royal National Institute for the Blind, England
As the Coordinator for Volunteer Services for SA Ambulance Service, I had a brief discussion with our Chief Executive Officer at a Christmas dinner function last year. It suddenly occurred to me, that we could never every pay our volunteers . . . because they are absolutely priceless!
--The dinner was to congratulate new Ambulance Officers and recognise all Officers for their dedication and committment over the past 12 months.
Submitted by Helen Elix, South Australian Ambulance Service, South Australia. Australia
It's 1 AM!
A story I heard recently at a Lions Club meeting: The Lions Club supports an Eye Bank in Washington and Idaho; the Eye Bank performs over 400 cornea transplants each year. Frequently donated corneas from deceased persons must be specially packed and delivered by bus or train to the donor's location, requiring a volunteer to pick up the package and deliver it to the hospital. One night, the program coordinator was desperate; she had a package on a bus to Spokane and no one to pick it up. She frantically called the list of emergency volunteers...it was after 1am.
She reached a very sleepy man and explained what she needed. The irritated man told her that yes, he had volunteered to be on the contact list, but had specified afternoons and evenings before 8pm, and in good weather only. "It's 1am and it's snowing here!" he protested. "I'll do it just this one, but please, don't ever call me again." He got up, and as he was getting dressed, his 13-year-old son came out and asked what he was doing. When he learned that dad had to "run an errand", he asked to go along.
They drove in silence through the snow to the bus station, picked
up the package, and drove it to the hospital. On the trip home,
the son asked what the package had been. Dad explained that it was
tissue from the eyes of someone who had died, and that tissue was
going to help someone else see again. The boy digested that for
a moment, then said, "Gee, Dad, I never knew you did such important
things!" The next day, the man called the coordinator back. "You
can call me anytime you need to," he said.
--Donna Oiland, Lions Eye Bank employee.
Submitted by Samantha Bowes, Director of Business/Community Relations, South District; YMCA of Greater Seattle, Seattle, WA, USA
Don't Need Those Little Pins
Sophie was a volunteer in Disaster Response for the Red Cross. For 30 years she would grumble when invited to recognition celebrations. "Don't need that foolishness," she'd say. "Don't need those little pins. People don't need to make a fuss." Sophie passed away and many people attended her funeral. She had an open casket,and, to the surprise of all attending, in the casket was a red velvet ribbon with every one of her hours pins that she had accumulated during during her many years of volunteering pinned on it. So don't give up when volunteers say that they don't want you to make a fuss over them. You just never know.
Submitted by Kathy Cunningham, Manager, Volunteer Services, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD
The Source of Her Energy
There was an enthusiastic 70 year old woman in Montcalm County who came to the training for volunteers with a smile that took in the world. Other volunteers seemed to gravitate towards her at breaks, and I wondered at her energy that seemed to fill the room. She came up to me at the end of the training on building self esteem in children and said, "You know I get up every morning just glad to be alive. I go out and work with children for twenty hours a week. I can't wait to get there and be with them. When I'm with those children I forget that I am dying of cancer."
Submitted by Vallery Mann, Gerontology Network, Michigan, Kent
A Jewish Village in Belarus
Streshin, a typical shtetl or Jewish village in Belarus, supported at least 15 charitable organizations. There was a Khevre Kedisha, or burial society. The Shomrim society would provide guards to stay with the body from death to burial. The Khevre T'hilim society came together to read Psalms and raise money for charitable projects. The G'miles Khesed Society made interest-free loans to those in need. The women's Lekhem Evyeynim Society collected extra challah bread on Thursday mornings and distributed them to needy Jews in time for the Sabbath. The Bikur Kholim Society would raise money for families to travel to the city for medical care. They would also harvest ice from the Dnieper every winter and store it in an underground cellar; the rest of the year they delivered ice to those suffering from fever. There was a Jewish Book Society that raised money for the lending library and invited lecturers from nearby cities. At its height in the 1880s, Streshin's Jewish population numbered 552.
Submitted by Andrew Silow-Carroll, Fellow, CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, New York, NY USA
"You Didn't Call This Morning"
In Jacksonville Florida, a volunteer was late in making her daily call to an elderly person living alone. The volunteer received a call from the elderly person who said, "You didn't call this morning." The volunteer replied, "I was about to call." To this the elderly person replied, "Then I will hang up and let you call back because if you don't call the PHONE WON'T RING TODAY."
Submitted by Reverend Gene Parks
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