Giving thanks for volunteers

Published 8:48 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

They’re in churches, in hospitals and in nursing homes. They’re in schools, in shopping malls and in stores. You can find them in soup kitchens and on field trips and especially on the scene at disasters or natural calamities. They come in different sizes and shapes, different colors and socio-economic backgrounds, too. They are our volunteers, the backbone of our community and our nation.

In good times or bad, they’re still there. They don’t mind sharing of themselves and their time, talents and treasures. They love to do things for others. Hence, they’re worthy of our respect and admiration and gratitude.

Why do people volunteer? What inspires or motivates them to do so?

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One time, when I visited Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, I was surprised to find out that Mr. John, 72, was still doing volunteer work there, delivering donated magazines and books from one clinic to another for patients waiting for their turn for care and/or service. I asked him why he was still volunteering, when he should have been enjoying his life. “I am enjoying my life,” he said. “I love doing it for our patients and other people.”

This past summer, the American Red Cross sponsored the annual volunteer program at Naval Medical center in Portsmouth. Turnout was overwhelming. When I asked some of the teen volunteers who were assigned duties in pediatrics, NICU and ICU what they thought of their volunteer work, almost all had positive comments about the program. One of them said that it would help her choose a career in either nursing or medicine.

Isn’t it interesting how often volunteerism and activism work hand in hand?

Volunteers help raise money for countless worthy causes. The Salvation Army, the March of Dimes, the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Toys for Tots and other community projects all rely on the help of selfless volunteers.

We see them ringing bells in front of stores and manning the pledge phones. We see them in schools, partnering with teachers, helping a kid to read in class or monitoring students during recess or on field trips.

We see them in libraries, grocery stores, even on battlefields. Yes, folks, they’re everywhere. They’re responsible, compassionate and considerate.

This holiday season, let’s give thanks for all the volunteers among us. May their tribe increase.