At our annual convention a few weeks ago, Mary Applegate, a member of UCT’s Fort Myers, Florida Council 900, was awarded our top volunteer award for 2013. Mary has been helping people since childhood and has been a UCT volunteer since she was 18 – and we feel lucky to have her involved in our organization! This week’s post is Mary’s chance to share with you her thoughts about volunteering:
I volunteer because it’s what I love to do – and I was raised to give service to those in need. The earliest I can remember volunteering was singing in local churches in my small town of Croton on Hudson, New York. I was eight years old and sang in three different choirs. It never occurred to me that they were of different faiths; I just knew they needed me, so I sang! I remember doing the smallest things like opening doors for elderly persons to providing canned goods during the yearly mailman’s canned food drive. I learned early that everyone can do their part, however big or small, and it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
As an adult, I continue to volunteer any way I can. I generally look for projects that impact my local community, church and schools – everything from supporting Special Olympics to working with the Boy Scouts and 4-H. But I also look outside my community for larger, different volunteer functions. My husband and I volunteered for four days at the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando this year, and it was a great experience! I think it’s sometimes good for us to go outside our comfort zones when volunteering for causes – the results can be both inspiring and rewarding.
I personally love to volunteer my time to causes that might seem small, but make a big difference – like donating blood to blood banks, getting involved with recycling programs and clean-up projects, collecting soup labels for local food banks or church, or saving the box tops for funding supplies for art programs. How many times have you looked at the offers companies provide and said, “Is this something I use every day that I could save and give to someone who could use them?” Volunteers have to think outside of the box.
The rewards for volunteering my time and energy are the thanks and appreciation I receive from those I help. My advice to those who want to volunteer? Keep looking for those volunteer opportunities. Organizations like UCT offer a number of ways to get involved in helping others in your communities. And remember to start out small. You may not think what you’re doing makes a difference, but if you bring light to it and ask others to help, you can change someone’s life – and that’s a wonderful feeling!