They're everywhere! Young and old, black and white, student, business person, homemaker. No one profile can describe them, but they do share something in common: Volunteers ensure that essential services, the programs offering them, and the communities which benefit from them, continue to grow and to thrive.
The week of April 18 through 24 is a time set aside to honor those people who contribute their time, energy and talent to the causes they hold important. It is also meant to increase awareness of the critical role that volunteers play in our community.
This has been an American tradition for more than a quarter of a century. National Volunteer Week started in 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteerism.
I will be volunteering this summer for the American Cancer Society because cancer has touched everyone in some way including a close member of my family. The American Cancer Society recognizes and celebrates the efforts of its more than 3 million volunteers nationwide, and more than 8,000 volunteers in Iowa, who are making a difference for people facing cancer. To help others in their fight against cancer is truly humbling and I would encourage you to participate in this year's Webster County Relay For Life on June 25 at Dodger Station. To learn more about how you can volunteer or start a relay team log onto www.relayforlife.org/webstercounty.ia and join us on the track this summer.
While attending college this past year I volunteered my time for Hope 4 Africa, which is a nonprofit organization that primarily focuses on problems that cripple Africa. One out three students in Kenya will not get an opportunity to go to high school and two out three students will not get a chance to go to college. Hope 4 Africa is committed to providing children in Africa with quality education to continue on to high school and college. We believe that Africa has the potential to be a better place if we channel the necessary resources to the right places. We need to teach Africans how they can be self-independent and come up with homegrown solutions that directly apply to them. To learn more about Hope 4 Africa please visit www.hope4africa.info.
I was involved with a meaningful fundraiser this year called ''The Hunger Out'' for Hope 4 Africa. We went without food for 12 hours overnight and played games and did activities to keep our minds off not eating or sleeping. The event raised $1,050, but the big success was sharing stories of children in Africa for everyone who attended.
Why do we volunteer?
It brings people together.
You get to meet new people and make new friends.
It promotes self-growth. You can use your skills and learn new skills.
You make a difference. Volunteering makes you feel appreciated and needed.
It provides an opportunity to give back what has been given to you.
It strengthens our community and breaks down barriers of fear and misunderstanding.
I began volunteering to help others, but the person I helped the most was me. There is nothing more satisfying than giving some of my time and talents to others and knowing that I am making a positive difference in their lives. If you are not currently volunteering, I would encourage you to find that organization that matches your passion and get involved. It's not just connecting with a job it's connecting with a purpose.
Thank you, volunteers. You truly light the way!
Marisa Wilson is a 2009 graduate of FDSH and is currently a freshman at Iowa State University, Ames. She will be back in Fort Dodge this summer and plans on volunteering her time as a non-paid intern for the American Cancer Society.