By Tiffany Lemons, M.P.A. | April 18, 2017
Every day, I see the impact volunteers have on organizations, community, and volunteers themselves. In addition to teaching courses at Marian’s Adult Programs as an adjunct instructor, I am also the Director of Outreach and Evaluation at Girl Scouts of Central Indiana (GSCI). My work with GSCI, for the last 12 years, has allowed me to witness first-hand just how vital volunteers are. As GSCI covers 45 counties in Central Indiana and works with nearly 36,000 girls, it is only able to achieve its mission with the help of thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and energy.
The stories I hear never cease to amaze me; and a recent conversation with a volunteer troop leader comes to mind. As we were talking, she mentioned how at first, she was apprehensive about becoming a Girl Scout troop leader, but signed up because she wanted her daughter to have a place where she felt like she belonged. She hoped that by starting a Girl Scout troop for her kindergartner to be part of, that she would be able to find a group of friends that she could truly call her own. Six years later, the mom still sees a sparkle in her daughter’s eye when she talks about her friends in the troop. Girl Scouts has given her daughter confidence to make friends in school and even participate in sports. The volunteer troop leader reports similar results for the other girls in her troop, as well. Can you imagine the positive impact that one mom, turned volunteer troop leader, has made on the lives of all of her Girl Scouts?
Not only do I have a lot of experience working with volunteers professionally, but personally I am also a volunteer. It has all been part of a transformational experience for me. Recently, my dad was the recipient of a liver. Shortly after the surgery, I remember sitting in the hospital waiting for news and wondering how I could ever repay the gift that we have been given – a second chance at life. I looked up and there was a banner for Donate Life (https://www.donatelife.net/). I began to think about volunteering my time to increase knowledge and awareness about organ donation.
Soon thereafter, I began volunteering for the Indiana Donor Network. Talking about my story, volunteering at events, and helping spread the word about organ donation helps me feel like I am giving back to my community and honoring the gift we were given. We recently learned that my dad would also need a kidney—this was my chance to give back! Giving my dad a kidney, means that someone else on the organ donor list will have a chance at life. Volunteering helps the Indiana Donor Network achieve their mission, but the impact it has on my family cannot be explained in words.
Are you interested in volunteering, but not sure where to start?
Ask yourself which causes are most important to you. This will help narrow your interests and make it easier to select an organization. For instance, you may decide that you’re passionate about saving the environment and want to remove trash from local streams and rivers. Once you’ve figured out what you really care about and what you want to do, it will make it easier to find the best organization with which to volunteer your time, skills, and resources.
If you live in Central Indiana, check out http://www.uwci.org/volunteer to learn about volunteer opportunities in your community. Or visit United Ways Worldwide to find the United Way closest to you. It only takes a little of your time to make a profound impact on you and your community.