Volunteers are like Electricity! Without them, we couldn’t survive.

Why Volunteers are Important to Our Survival

Can volunteerism become a thing of the past?

I had the wonderful privilege to be invited to attend the Dr. Piper Center's 27th Annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on December 3rd, an event that recognizes the selfless service of volunteers that make a difference in SW Florida’s community. As they do every year they select, through a nomination process, volunteers that have made a difference and this year was a reminder to me just how important volunteers really are.

While I listened to the Dr. Piper Centers’ leadership team along with the event’s eloquent keynote speaker address the audience, their message was loud and clear. Just imagine life without volunteers.

I propose four questions to ask yourself:

  1. Why do they do it?
  2. What would life be like for the rest of us without them?
  3. How do we honor them outside of ceremonial accolades?
  4. How do we survive without them?

As I watched 2 of the 5 women that who were being recognized accompanied up to the stage because they were too frail to independently get there on their own I felt with each slow step they took their personal commitment to the work they do. 

Why do they still do it?

The one obvious thing each has in common that occurred to is being part of a generation that existed before social media.

Consider how nowadays people take to tweeting and posting their dissatisfaction about everything whereas these women focus on providing a solution. Both women I refer to are volunteer mentors through the Piper Centers’ Foster Grandparent Program working inside the classroom, one-on-one, alongside students in need of help.  As you listened to the individuals that nominated the women you could hear in their testimonies not just their immense gratitude but knowing the importance of the role they played, and understanding the true notion that “It takes a village”.

The audience broke out  in applause when one of the nominators acknowledged the work by one of the recipients and how it impacted a young autistic child, over several years, who is now is a college graduate. I can only imagine how easy it is for such a child to fall between the cracks.

What would life be like for all of us without this level of commitment by volunteers?

Think about all the food that is delivered by volunteers and the countless hours of taking people to necessary appointments. Here’s just a partial list of places and tasks volunteers help with.

  • Food banks
  • Transportation
  • Medical supplies
  • Diapers
  • Companionship
  • Animal shelters
  • Hospice
  • Clothes donation
  • School supplies
  • Spiritual support
  • Building houses
  • Home renovation
  • Emergency services
  • Legal assistance
  • Financial assistance
  • Veteran services
  • Hospital and Nursing Homes
  • ALFs and Adult Day Care
  • School mentors

On a personal note as the director of an adult day center I have been blessed with wonderful volunteers throughout the years. I have the pleasure of having gotten to know a special young man who has been a volunteer for our center for several years now and runs our bowling program. Thomas, an old soul, is of a generation of young people and contrary to many of his contemporaries finds value in serving others.

So how do we honor those that find value in donating their time, outside of recognition events?

We do so by their example. If we each become a giver of our time to help even in a small way, we can be the fuel that keeps the fire burning. The electricity that keeps all institutions, organizations, and agencies, that serve to help people, operating.

So lastly, how do we survive without volunteers?

We don’t, however, I remain optimistic.

Volunteerism is a call to action undertaken by many seniors in communities across the globe. You can say they have the time but perhaps maturity and wisdom motivate those that wish to make a difference. Perhaps our older citizens feel the need to help make the present world a better place left by their generation. Whatever the reason their impact is priceless whether it’s for a young autistic student, a frail hungry senior, disabled veterans and anyone who needs help.

Congratulation to Dr. Pipers 2018 Hall of Fame Awardees!

Dr. Piper Centers' volunteers

For more information please visit the Dr. Ella Piper Center

**(You can read more about Thomas on agingcreative.com stories.)

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