Public service was introduced early in my life. Written with a smile, I wonder if the introduction to volunteerism was for free labor or to teach me volunteerism’s value. If those elders were alive today, I’d guess they would answer, “She learned the value of volunteerism.”
They volunteered me to serve food at fundraiser barbecues, neighborhood trash pick-ups, and “sniping” political signage at night (which was really fun). By my mid-teens, the elders scheduled me to hand out water at a nonprofit’s booth at the fair, and give away pink and blue helium-filled balloons to remind folks that the local hospital maternity ward could use funding for rocking chairs.
I learned responsibility, altruism and values. That rubbed off on my two daughters, who are active in the nonprofit world, with my grandchildren now giving time to people or causes that can use their help, like raking leaves at an Audubon center or serving tea at a homeless shelter.
My point is not to brag about my beloved family, but to show how this kind of trickle-down element can grow from a trickle to a full-sized waterfall of giving.
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Our local schools offer service opportunities, but without continued adult encouragement, that first drip of service may not grow into a river of lifetime giving. Why is that important? Besides the obvious benefits of community strengthening, personal development and responsibility, volunteers are more likely to land paid jobs. That’s according to a 2013 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service that states, “The study found that volunteering is associated with a 27 percent higher odds of employment.”
The study also concluded:
▪ Volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.
▪ Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.
Former Secretary of Labor Hilda I. Solis stated, “Volunteerism can be a way to help unemployed workers expand their network of contacts, improve their résumés and make a positive impression in a competitive job market.”
Personal experience says this is true. While I did continue my education, if it were not for my volunteer efforts at our community’s local fair, I probably would not have had the connections and chops for one of the best jobs in my life, publicity and marketing director for one of California’s bigger fairs. When I submitted my résumé for the position, and included copies of those certificates the fair board issued for my previous volunteer efforts, I had that proverbial blue ribbon in my back pocket.
Youth scouting groups, YMCA, Rotary youth projects and 4-H efforts to bring youth into the world of volunteerism are priceless.
GenerationOn offers kids and teens all sorts of means for community involvement. A Points of Light offshoot, generationOn Clubs “can be formed in schools, volunteer centers and faith-based community organizations.” Programs are designed for children 5 to 10 years old, and 11 to 18 years old. Visit the generationOn website to access information about how to participate in the program.
But what I really want to share today is the super fun — and I’ve used this come-on before — is Disney’s Ticket Donation Program. The program begins this fall. From the website disneytickets.pointsoflight.org: “Disney Parks is partnering with Points of Light to launch a new complimentary ticket program that rewards nonprofit organizations and schools in the U.S. with Disney theme park tickets for hosting — or participating in — family volunteering activities.
“Eligible nonprofits and schools will register projects, track the number of families volunteering and close out a project to receive complimentary tickets from Disney. The more volunteers, the more tickets you earn. Up to 20 tickets! Tickets may be used to reward volunteers, as a contest prize, for a fundraiser or in other creative ways (just please don’t sell them)!”
Imagine, a day at Disneyland free by the way you give.
If you are connected with youth in any way, you can help those young people move forward in life by letting them participate in a service group or organization, or simply by encouraging them to volunteer where there is a need. Oh, they might grumble a little bit, but I’d bet that after serving water at a nonprofit event, selling cookies to help a family in need, or whatever, you will watch bright, shiny stars grow within that young person’s heart.
Charmaine Coimbra’s column appears the fourth Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.