Since the recent devastating tornadoes in southwestern Ohio, I have read volumes about the ways in which individuals and groups have rushed to give a plethora of assistance to those impacted: food and supplies, removal of debris, rebuilding, clothing, and no small measure of comfort and prayers.
I am reminded of a visit I paid to my maternal grandmother when she was 85 or so. In her kitchen I saw stacks of bed socks in a variety of appealing colors. My query was, “Why in the world have you crocheted all of these? What do you plan to do with them?”
Her response was, “I made them for the old folks, to keep their feet warm this winter.”
More recently, I was interviewing Cindy Lapointe Dafler about a column on which I’m working, and I asked her about her volunteer work with veterans. Very quickly, she was able to list some major work with the American Veterans Heritage Center as chair of the annual Patriot Freedom Festival. When she moved to her weekly work at the Dayton VA, I was particularly interested. She said, “I talk with these veterans. It’s sad to see them come to the hospital, but I’m happy to see them once they are ready to leave. I talk with them because often they feel isolated. I play BINGO during their social time.”
These contrasting examples of volunteerism started me thinking about the necessary match between needs and talents as my grandmother was a rather quiet woman and Cindy is comfortable with a variety of people in a host of settings.
Some of you know that I’ve lived in a number of states, and because my work has taken me to them, I know about natural disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, and, of course, tornadoes. These events seem inevitable, and I’ve witnessed the generosity of Americans. I believe that I have contributed in some small measure to the necessary healing.
There is relief from federal and state levels, but the local efforts of individuals and groups are equally important. And volunteerism should never wait until disaster strikes.
Every week of every month, you can make a positive difference in your community. Never let the momentum created by a natural disaster keep you from continuing your volunteerism by exploring the opportunities where there is a match between your personality and skill set and what is needed in your community.
Do you need suggestions? Think about your local library, museum, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, gardening clubs, hot lines, animal rescue centers, cemeteries, colleges, child care/youth/senior adult groups. I feel sure you could add to my list.
When you call to volunteer your services, you might learn that the person to whom you are speaking is baffled because few have ever offered to volunteer. Don’t allow that to deter you. Indicate you’ll call back in a week or two after the organization has had time to consider your request. And call back.
There will be a training period to acquaint you with procedures and legal issues, and perhaps you’ll need to pass a background check.
Your reward: In these times when every day’s news presents additional problems and challenges, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a positive difference in the lives of others as you give more meaning and purpose to your own life.
American anthropologist Margaret Mead said it well, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College, and to work with veterans. Reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.