It is amazing what can be accomplished if people are willing to give a little of their time and effort with no expectation of personal gain.
A recent effort in my own community is a good example. For many years, Tampa had no grocery store. There seemed to be serious obstacles in the way of bringing such a business to town. Finally, a group of visionary volunteers banded together. They did their research regarding the logistics of opening a small grocery/convenience store, and formed a not-for-profit corporation. Many people in the community bought shares, and others volunteered their time and skills. Last year, Tampa Trail Stop opened, and now residents can get most of the basics without going out of town.
All the workers in the store are volunteers.
Much of the most needed work in this world is done by people who are paid nothing for their efforts.
Senior centers, especially those with nutrition sites, could not operate without volunteers to help serve meals, decorate tables, and deliver meals to the homebound elderly and disabled.
Churches, of course, need help from lay members as well as their salaried pastors. This would be a good week to express appreciation to those in your church who sing in the choir, play the organ, teach Sunday school classes, take care of the place of worship, help in the kitchen when needed, and do all the other chores that keep the church operating.
Volunteers do a lot of valuable work in schools and libraries. One of my few volunteer efforts is spending three hours a week staffing Tampa’s minuscule community library. Teachers can always use people willing to give a little extra help to students who are struggling, put up bulletin boards, or help with some of the paperwork.
Hospitals and nursing homes are served by many volunteers. When I was a resident at Salem Homes a couple of years ago, I especially enjoyed two families who brought their children to entertain the residents with music and to play games. Every Tuesday the residents looked forward to that interaction with young people. I go to Salem once a month for what the activity director bills as “chat with Jane,” when I read something that I hope will spark memories, and the residents and I reminisce. It may not be the most popular item on the schedule (I cannot seriously compete with bingo), but there are a few residents who seem to enjoy it. Just last week I expanded by taking “my act” to Parkside Homes.
One of the most valuable and often unsung groups of volunteer heroes is our emergency medical technicians and firefighters. These big-hearted public servants put their lives on the line to save other people’s lives and property. I have never heard any of them complain about the disruptions of their own private lives, not even those who had to leave their televisions during the Jayhawks’ bid for the national championship to take me to the hospital in the ambulance.
There are many other volunteers, who may not even recognize themselves as such, who evade such organized and institutional paths and simply help their neighbors whenever they see an opportunity.
For instance, there are anonymous elves who sometimes mow my lawn if I don’t get it done. One of my walking companions often stops along her route to pull a few weeds or pick up some litter. I once knew a man in Wichita who took a daily walk and always carried a bag with him to pick up trash.
I know I have only scratched the surface in talking about all the ways volunteers are helping to make this world a little better. Thank you to all those who are contributing their time and talents in various ways to make life a little easier for somebody else or make their community a little better place to live. In the unlikely event that you are not one of them, I challenge you to find your service niche and volunteer.