We need volunteers
Web Informant #200, 26 May 2000
Hey now, it's time for you and me,
Got a revolution Got to revolution!
Come on now we're marching to the sea,
Got a revolution Got to revolution!
Who will take it from you?
We will and who are we?
We are volunteers of America.
Marty Balin and Paul Kantner|
Jefferson Airplane, Volunteers 1969
When I saw that issue #200 approaching, my first thought was to do something fairly pedestrian. Take
a look back since I began writing these essays almost five years ago and come up with some pithy things to say about the next five. But that thought quickly faded, and I was inspired by some recent
events that came together in the usual Web Informant serendipitous way.
My surfing through my back issues reminded me of how lucky I am to do the kinds of things that I do, and so I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your business, comments, e-mails, phone calls, products, and help over the years. I really have a great job, and in large part it is because of your support down through the years. It amazes me how the many different pieces of my job fit together, and how much I learn every day.
Part of the satisfaction of my job comes with the freedom to do a wide variety of things. Besides writing these essays, I have the flexibility to pick and choose my clients and work on lots of interesting projects and with very bright and motivated people. And I also have the flexibility to spend my time on non-working matters too, something that I have found is more and more important to me as I get older.
My participation a few weeks ago in the Million Mom March made me realize that I need to do more volunteer work these days, and need to think more about doing something for my community, neighbors, families and friends. Then I heard from Tammy Ellingson, who runs the Community Affairs group at public relations firm Waggener Edstrom, about what they are doing to promote this. The rest of this essay is in her words.
"Wait a minute," you say, "I'm too busy to get involved; my life is too hectic with work and family commitments, and managing all of those pesky basic life tasks like eating, hygiene, and keeping household chaos at bay." Well, maybe it's time to check our your local community and see what's going on.
Employers can make it easy for employees to get involved. A lot of companies offer employees either a set number of hours, or a specific day that can be set aside for volunteering in their community. Waggener Edstrom offers employees eight hours per year to volunteer for an organization of their choice. The hard part for employees is deciding what to do.
We built an intranet site to list company organized activities and drives, community organizations, and individual volunteer opportunities in each office location. We also provide managers with ideas for volunteer activities that can be used as team building experiences. Every couple of months, we organize a group activity for those who like volunteering with co-workers. Sometimes we answer phones at the local public television station during pledge drives, or spend a couple of hours painting new signs to spruce up a youth center, or spend an afternoon weeding and preparing new planting beds in a community garden, or reserve the cafeteria for a couple of hours and provide supplies so people can drop by and make a few Valentine's Day cards for local senior citizens centers.
You learn a lot about a person when you're standing beside them wielding dangerously sharp garden implements.
We have one senior account executive that functions almost single-handedly as a local Dalmatian rescue group. The local shelter calls her when they have a Dalmatian that is nearing the end of its stay in the shelter and she retrieves the dog and fosters it until she can find either a suitable home, or another foster situation.
Another account coordinator decided she wanted to spend her time making a difference for children. So, she signed up with the CASA program, a court appointed special advocate for children who are living in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect. She spends anywhere from six to 20 hours a month volunteering on behalf of a specific child.
Another systems specialist spends time as an adult advisor for a local youth group. Last year, he spent several hours a month attending their meetings, advising on them on procedural matters, and guiding them in making their own decisions.
A few of us volunteer for a local reading program, SMART (Start Making a Reader Today), a program funded by the Oregon Children's Foundation. SMART recruits adults to spend one half-hour each week reading to and with kids who need a little extra assistance.
If you want to get involved in your community, you can start by finding specific activities and organizations online. Get your co-workers involved and add information to a company-wide intranet so others can use the information you've gathered. Propose volunteer activities as alternatives to off-site team building programs and see what you can learn about each other when you're side-by-side weeding a patch of earth in your village. Here are some resources to get you started:
Impact Online is a non-profit organization with the mission of helping people get involved in their communities.
VolunteerMatch is a free volunteer matching service provided by Impact Online, which allows non-profit organizations to post their volunteer needs according to activities and zip codes, so people can find specific activities in their own neighborhood.
City Cares is an organization that is known as "Cares" or "Hands on" in specific cities. This is the umbrella organization that helps link individuals with direct service opportunities in their community. They arrange single event projects that don't require extended time commitments. Their goal is to make it easy for people to get involved whenever they are able.
We are the volunteers of America.
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Web Informant copyright 2000 by David Strom, Inc., reprinted by permission
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ISSN #1524-6353 registered with U.S. Library of Congress.