Volunteering is a great way to offer service to others or the community at large. It doesn’t have to be a large scale coordinated event. It could be something as simple as volunteering to help a neighbor or elderly person with a specific task.
I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a Program Director with the United Way for a reading program in the public schools for the past two years. I started out as a volunteer, four years ago. I have experienced first hand the impact that volunteerism can have on a community.
The purpose of the reading program is to increase the reading grade level of kindergarten and first grade students. We have 250 plus volunteers who read with kindergarten and first grade students one on one four days a week in the schools for the fall and spring semesters. How awesome is that? It truly is heartwarming. We have retired teachers, administrators, college students, parents, grandparents, bankers and a host of other professionals as well as concerned community members who give of their time every week. I’m amazed by the response. Reading is fundamental to everything we do in life. Our goal is to give students an early start by helping them acquire basic reading skills and beyond in order to achieve success. The research says that kids not reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school.
The kids are quite entertaining as five and six-year olds can be. They like to tell long stories, and do everything else but read at times. Fortunately, we have great volunteers and a Coordinator at each school that runs the program on a day-to-day basis. They keep the program and the students on track. We work with six students at a time for 30-40 minutes from each kindergarten or first grade class. Most of the reading is completed in the mornings from about 8:30 until 10:30. It varies by school. It’s a great model and has become an integral part of our community.
Volunteering is special because it is usually done of your own free will to help others. I’d like to think that most people volunteer for intrinsic reasons. Some of those reasons might include wanting to make a difference in their community, the desire to meet a need, or simply donating their time to something valuable. I volunteer my time for all of those reasons. I usually bring one of my kids along with me for volunteer activities outside of the reading program. I want them to understand what it means to give of their time and skills.
The reading program is such a meaningful program and we are seeing great results. It has benefited the students and created lasting partnerships between the United Way, the community and the local school district.
Volunteerism is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as the act or practice of doing volunteer work in community service. Many people believe that volunteerism and community service are synonymous. However, they are not the same. Community service is a donated service or activity that is performed by someone or a group of people for the benefit of the public or its institutions. Engaging in community service is not the same as volunteering because it is not always done voluntarily. It may be done for a variety of reasons:
- citizenship requirements, in lieu of military service;
- courts may demand it for criminal sanctions;
- school or colleges may mandate it to meet the requirements of a class, such as in the case of service-learning or to meet the requirements of graduation.
Volunteering has helped me to get acclimated after each move. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve lived in several states. I usually begin volunteering at my children’s school. Regardless of where it is, the rewards are plenty. If you can’t volunteer for an extended period of time consider participating in an activity during National Volunteer Month which is in April.
Sometimes the most meaningful experiences are free. Have you volunteered your time?
Peace and Blessings,