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Volunteers of America?

Volunteers of America? deb-gardner-0812B.jpg

    This month’s interview with Ellen Freyman, founder of OnBoard – a local non-profit organization that helps match boards of directors seeking to fill positions with qualified volunteers interested in serving – got me thinking about the whole concept of volunteerism.
    Volunteers, it seems, are a dying breed in today’s society.
    From the willing hands needed to plan and run familiar events such as Wilbraham’s now-defunct Peach Festival to the membership needed to keep fraternal orders such as the Shriners or the Knights of Columbus (and their respective community work) going, individuals seem to be less willing to give up their personal time to support causes than in times past.
        Sure, there are more causes than ever to support  – just look at the litany of fundraising walks, 5Ks, half-marathons and marathons that dot the calendar each weekend year-‘round now – but then look at the faces organizing your favorite cause-related event.
        See the same ones over and over again? I bet you do.
        I don’t know where to place blame for this phenomenon. Is it the two-paycheck families and their overscheduled kids? I know back in the late 1950s and 60s, it was women like my stay-at-home mom who were tapped to handle the Heart Fund drive or man the church or school or fraternal order events. They, it was believed, had the time.
        Or is it a change in the way society  – and more importantly, business – is done today?
        Before Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and all the other social media sites, networking was done person-to-person, most often through a volunteer organization or fraternal order. That’s how my dad built his law business back in the day, by meeting people through volunteer work.
        Today, we just have to “like” or “heart” to be connected.
        I personally know the pain associated with the volunteer drain. Right now, I serve as both the secretary AND public relations person for the booster club that supports my son’s team. I’ve been filling this dual role for two years now, and I’m not alone in being a perpetual committee member. Despite a team of more than 100 athletes, we can’t get any other parents to serve.
        What can I say? I’m a reporter and I like to know what’s going on. I also like the opportunity to influence policy for our booster club.
        After all, you have to show up to make a difference.
        Do you want to make a difference?
        Put down the phone/tablet/remote, roll up your sleeves and volunteer.
        I guarantee the organization will welcome you with open arms.

Thanks for reading,

Debbie Gardner

debbieg@thereminder.com