Helping Others Helps Us!

April is National Volunteer month.

Greg Kozlowski is an amazing volunteer!  The Disabled Resources Center, where I work, could not do without him.

Volunteers are vital in any non-profit agency. Oftentimes, without them, there would be no agency or entity.  Volunteers are a vital part of our national workforce. Governments, political organizations (like political and human rights campaigns), non-profit entities, religious and charitable organizations, educational institutions, hospitals and other health care entities – the list is effectively endless – don’t just accept volunteers, they need them, rely on them, depend on them. In some organizations, volunteers are the backbone of their enterprise.

Sadly, and typically, volunteers do not get the accolades they deserve.  But Greg did – and does – because we genuinely appreciate what he and other volunteers do for us.  What does Greg do for us?  Anything and everything that needs done; as quickly and cheerfully as he can get it done.  He is always ready to lend a helping hand – and a smile. And that smile is perhaps even more important than his labor.  He is always cheerful, constructive, and positive.  He lights up this place as if he was a light bulb! That in itself is worth a lot – particularly when we are stressed.

Greg has served us for over twenty years. He will receive the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award at our upcoming 43rd Annual Awards Dinner on May 16th.  He was recently named athlete of the year for Special Olympics, Orange County, California (and wears his medals proudly).

Volunteering does more than help others. It helps the volunteer. It can lead to a healthier and happier life, emotionally, physically, socially, professionally. As a social worker and job developer, I encourage my clients to seek out the opportunity to volunteer. I say “opportunity” because that is exactly what it is. It not only helps the volunteer gain invaluable experience and confidence, it also helps to fill in gaps on resumes, while prepare for and seek gainful employment. It helps the volunteer acquire needed skills and work habits for regular (paid) employment and otherwise enhances careers with experience the volunteer may never have had a chance to gain otherwise. It is true that helping others helps us.

Volunteering has been instrumental throughout my stroke recovery and the restructuring of my career. It didn’t just help me in my recovery, but has empowered me with newfound confidence and enabled me to move forward with my own life as I became an advocate for others.

Volunteering took my focus off my own struggles, and refocused my energy on other’s struggles. While making a difference in their lives, I made a difference in mine and my family’s. I love to see the ripple effect of volunteering as I watch lives being enhanced as people help people help people. In recognizing National Volunteer month, I thank all of you who give so generously of yourselves.

How can you observe National Volunteer month?  If you are an individual with a little bit of time you can give to a good cause, then please volunteer!  Pick a cause, sign up, and watch your life change as you change others’ lives.  Giving back and costs only a few hours of your time, and a little bit of love, while brightening up someone’s day – and changing their lives for the better.

In my native New Zealand, Volunteer month is May; so being a Kiwi, I will go on celebrating and honoring the profession of volunteerism well into May (and every month of the year, actually)!

As Winston Churchill wisely said, “We make a living by what we get we make a life by what we give.”