A reflection on the power of volunteerism
by Amber Martin-Jahn Executive Director Nevada Volunteers
Last week I spoke at our 13th Annual Governor’s Points of Light Awards. What an inspiring event! At the morning reception honoring all the finalists I was awed by the ability of these individuals and organizations to transform volunteer service into good for their communities.
The finalists and award recipients re-affirm that volunteerism is powerful. It is powerful and it is good for Nevada.
Volunteering is also a purposeful act. It is a choice. At some point each of the finalists, individuals and organizations decided to take action and that action resulted in a power of good for Nevada. It might have started as a little spark of wanting to make a difference, or wanting to change something and today it is something so much bigger, something deserving of recognition, something that is powerful.
Volunteerism is powerful and it is good for Nevada. But what is it that moved each of these finalists to get involved?
The program booklet shares a snapshot of the individuals and organizations selected as Governor’s Points of Light Awards finalists and how they demonstrate the power of service and volunteerism.
Sometimes people get involved in something because of a personal tragedy. Whether it is their tragedy or a tragedy of someone close to them it inspires action. Volunteering to change that reality is powerful.
For Finalist Adam’s Place that meant assessing what was available to help deal with community needs around child bereavement and then mobilizing a group of concerned citizens to develop what has become the ‘go to’ resource for supporting children and families coping with loss.
Difficulties can motivate a person to act to make sure others do not have to deal with similar challenges. For Award Recipient Individual Volunteer Northern Nevada Malibu Robertson she became motivated to insure anti-bullying laws passed in Nevada. And she continues to lend her compassion to causes that lend awareness to larger social issues like Street Teens.
And sometimes a volunteer program is built on meeting difficulties and tragedies that happen, but for which we aren’t normally prepared to deal. Trauma Intervention Program of Northern Nevada engages volunteers to provide immediate on scene emotional and practical support to survivors of tragedy. Volunteers are recruited, trained and nurtured, as even 1-day volunteering under such circumstances can be a very tough day.
Sometimes people get involved because they hold a special skill or knowledge.
Award Recipient Individual Volunteer Southern Nevada Dr. Mary Ann Allison took her medical practice beyond the exam room and founded The Caring Place. Her nomination form spoke to that action being spearheaded by Dr. Allison with her skill and knowledge in partnership with one of her patients.
Individual Volunteer Rural Nevada Award Recipient Dr. Deb Cash has a similar role-applying her expertise in supporting family caregivers to build support groups and peer counselors across much of Nevada.
Sometimes it isn’t just about having the skilled volunteer to implement or design a program. Sometimes it is about the person who can engage and keep those skills based volunteers engaged.
Two exemplary finalists do just that.
Finalist Jodi Manzella manages a diverse group of community volunteers in the Southern Nevada Junior Achievement program. She engages business leaders to help ensure students have the knowledge and skills for their own economic success and she excels at developing business professionals as volunteer educators.
The Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors Educator Externship program, our Corporate Volunteer Program Award Recipient, is run by volunteers from Nevada licensed contractors. These volunteers invest their time and their talent to bridge the gap between academic content and real world practice expanding understanding of the profession and building future professionals.
Sometimes getting started volunteering is as simple as knowing what you want to see in your community and stepping up to make it happen. That is the power of volunteerism. Resources are limited, we all know that. But we all hold in our hands the power to take action, to take the first step.
Award Recipient Volunteer Program Serving Veterans, The Nevada Military Support Alliance, has mobilized private funders and communities in Nevada to support veterans. Because of this private-public partnership veterans and their families’ have access to new, innovative resources.
Lisa Marie Lightfoot is a finalist in the volunteer Manager category. One of only a very few volunteer managers with a certificate in volunteer management she is tasked with engaging volunteers to fill the gaps within the Washoe County School District. While schools are one of the most popular places to volunteer, engaging volunteers in mission critical-meaningful ways is powerful, but also challenging. Volunteers work on literacy, graduation proficiency and parental engagement to name a few.
Finalist Bill Von Phul is involved with the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. He has stepped up and gone beyond projects directed at helping build the 50 miles of trail to now maintaining parts of it so that local government would develop it.
Volunteerism is powerful. Whether you are meeting an unmet need, applying your professional skills, or inspiring others to take action.
A few of our finalist speak to the power of volunteerism to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, and the weaving of Nevada’s social fabric. That social fabric that encompasses basic needs and so much more.
Finalist Team Red White and Blue is about enriching the lives of veterans within their local communities. This finalist bridges the gap between military and civilian life through volunteer athletic events.
Finalist Thomas Trachyer began his involvement with the Challenger Little League of Southern Nevada in 1991 and continues to this day. Coach Tom has supported and continues to support many young Nevadans with disabilities in having access to Americas favorite past time.
Physical activity and access to those opportunities is a powerful role for volunteers.
Another finalist Mariann Summers volunteers weekly to teach students English as a second language. Retired and with a background in ESL teaching she now volunteers more than 40 hours per month and drives almost 100 miles monthly for her volunteer commitment.
The Nevada Aging and Disability Services Volunteer Programs, Non-profit/Community Organization Volunteer Program Award Recipient is using the power of volunteerism to support vulnerable populations. Because ADSD has invested in volunteer programs older adults can learn about services, access them and be supported in living independently longer.
These individuals and organizations are powerful. They are making an impact for the better in Nevada.
Food Security is a real issue for many. Finalist Intuit employees engaged in volunteerism focused on food security with the Northern Nevada Food Bank and earned the ranking of #1 in the FB top 12 groups for volunteer hours. They did everything from processing food donations, distributing food through mobile pantry sites, and taking on task of distributing free meals to youth through a summer food program. Not a small time commitment they served breakfast and lunch daily for an 8 week period.
Volunteerism is powerful. And that power is represented in many different ways by the Governor’s Points of Light finalists and Award Recipients.
As a Finalist USO Las Vegas is able to increase the overall health and quality of life of service members through core programs. These programs are supported primarily through volunteers. Volunteers that might sign up for one of the 192 different shifts at the airport lounges or engage in one of their more than 250 military community events.
The power of collective action is demonstrated again and again by the finalists and award recipients.
Giving your employee time to volunteer during work hours, like Finalist CenturyLink does shows the power an organization can have to improve a community through donating, volunteering and fundraising. It no doubt inspires others to volunteer, especially when one can talk about record breaking money raised or pounds of food collected like they can at CenturyLink.
We all know a little friendly competition never hurts. We see that in a lot of volunteer campaigns. But sometimes you come across individuals who are volunteering because they had an idea, they saw a need or maybe they are just a serial volunteer. That is the description we received for our rural Nevada finalist Heidi McFadden. Heidi volunteers through work, through the local school, and with special groups focusing on important issues like breast cancer. Sometimes you find the things you are passionate about and you work to make a difference and that is powerful.
Maybe you start a program to help others develop job skills and find employment. If you are like our finalist Brian Scroggins you are really good at it and more than 4 years later you are still at it-growing a volunteer program that now brings together close to 100 volunteers weekly to support others in finding work.
Sometimes your strength in volunteering is in setting up systems, strengthening organizations. Finalist Jim McClenahan does that work in his many volunteer roles. He provides leadership, policy direction, budget development—volunteering in areas that might not always get thanks but are critically important to every non-profits sustainability.
Just as Award Recipient Volunteer Manager Tom Crawford’s recognition of the importance of training volunteers and implementing a strong design has resulted in not just a high quality volunteer program, but an employment path that benefits both the volunteers and the organization.
Volunteerism is powerful. It is a part of maintaining our social fabric, protecting vulnerable populations, creating the change we want to see in our communities, addressing personal trials and maybe most importantly—using the power we all hold to make a difference.