National Volunteer Week is a celebration of people who understand the importance and benefits of civic responsibility or civic engagement. It is also a week that highlights a sector that thrives thanks to the many that set aside the time, talents and expertise to help. Giving back to your communities, whether it is your neighborhood, schools, city or beyond, is extremely significant to our quality of life.
As I reflect on my life, I am amazed at the variety of people, organizations and institutions that, through their volunteers, have made me who I am and taught me about the importance of returning such gifts of time back to others. Perhaps my choice of profession was in fact shaped by the many volunteers and nonprofits that touched me through my journey. I believe that “to those whom much is given, much is expected.”
As National Volunteer Week comes to a close, please take the time to personally reflect on the benefactors who have contributed to your quality of life and made your communities healthy. It can be quite insightful. Teacher-coaches or teacher-club leaders who volunteer their time to enrich your educational experiences. Local sports, recreation, and arts and culture community groups, run solely by volunteers. Individuals who help with fundraising campaigns which bring you the various community facilities you often frequent – public libraries, multi-use recreation facilities, art and cultural centres – or, business leaders who sit on nonprofit Boards like SHAD or the countless other charities which enhance lives. All of us are beneficiaries of their valuable voluntary contributions.
Of course National Volunteer Week is also an opportune time to ponder how you too are a benefactor. Many of us give back without thinking. Think about how you are choosing to live your life and how you are helping others. Whether you have coached/mentored, started a club or social venture, sit on a Board, or help with events, your contributions are to be commended this National Volunteer Week.
Knowing that YOU stand to benefit from the experience does not negate the value to other individuals or communities. No matter what the motivation to help, and there are many – learning a new skill, building a resume, reducing loneliness, building a social or professional network, feeling good about yourself, alleviating guilt, enhancing your personal brand, being able to graduate etc. – it does not reduce the value of the contribution. The impact of your volunteerism is the real measure.
To quote physicist and chemist Marie Curie: “[We] cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to who we think we can be most useful.” Volunteering achieves both objectives.
To all the volunteers who have positively influenced my life and helped the organizations I have had the privilege to work with and for, thank you so very much. Thanks to SHAD for again giving me the opportunity to serve and support volunteers who make a difference. SHAD exists to empower exceptional youth to make the world a better place. And to the numerous SHAD volunteers, I leave you with my favorite quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Happy National Volunteer Week!
Wendy Zufelt-Baxter, Vice President, Advancement at 3:00 PM