The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
March 22, 2007 Thursday
Volunteers serve for many reasons
Do you have some time to spare? Do you want to help others? Do you wish to give back to your community? Are you lonely and looking for something to do?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, I hope you will consider volunteering.
When I was teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma, I would often speak to groups of retired people. One item always on their meeting agendas was a report on volunteer activities. The number of volunteer hours contributed and the variety of agencies served were always amazing. I often wondered how some of the agencies would have survived without volunteer help.
When I asked for the reasons behind the decision to volunteer, the most frequent answer was "to give back to the community," followed by "to help other people." There were a few people who said they were lonely and wanted something to do. I don't believe I ever heard anyone say they had time to spare.
Now that I am volunteering, I know most of the people with whom I volunteer are busy, and it is surprising they find time to volunteer. I remember being asked to sponsor an organization at UCO, and my plea that I was too busy was answered by the comment "if you want something done, ask a busy person as they will always find time for one more activity."
After my husband died, my need to get out of the house and be with other people was a strong motivator. After six months of volunteering three days a week, I can appreciate and subscribe to the altruistic motivations of volunteers in general. It is a good feeling to return home and know that you have made someone's life easier or better.
The list of agencies that could use volunteer services is extensive, as is the list of volunteer opportunities for those who wish to serve. Your imagination and your willingness to try anything are the only limitations to the opportunities available to you.
Charitable organizations include agencies that rely on fundraising, donations or grants to continue their programs. They are the ones that seem to extract more than a dollar's worth of services out of each dollar donated. They provide services in times of immediate need. Disasters large and small come under this category, and we in Oklahoma know only too well of the needs that arise in a time of crisis. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other United Way agencies come readily to mind, but there are many others.
Educational volunteer opportunities include those available in public schools, preschools or day care, including tutoring, cafeteria services, assistance with classroom activities, fundraisers, crossing guards or chaperones for field trips and other school events.
Volunteer options in one's community include health care agencies, retirement communities or nursing homes. In cities as large as Oklahoma City, other agencies using volunteers include libraries, art museums, zoo, civic center and state Capitol. Volunteer activities in all these agencies are extensive, challenging, creative or routine, but above all necessary.
Pat Scheer, volunteer services manager at Mercy Health Center, said, "It is my responsibility to match the abilities and talents of a prospective volunteer with a position that will make them happy and, at the same time, fill a need at Mercy Hospital." That must be a tall order with more than 200 volunteers.
I am enjoying my volunteer experiences and look forward to my days at Mercy Health Center and Oklahoma Heart Hospital.
The challenge is there; surely there are volunteers waiting for an opportunity.
There are so many ways to help other people, and all it takes is one telephone call to an agency of your choice for the process to begin.
Margaret Whittemore is a retired University of Central Oklahoma gerontology professor.
Thu, March 22, 2007
by Tristan Shutt