Make a resolution to volunteer in 2012

Susan Cort Johnson
Staff writer

Ask around any community, and you will hear many people voice a need for volunteers. I have been creating a list of organizations in my area that need help in order to write a series of articles on volunteerism, and the opportunities for volunteering are great.

Local fire departments, community libraries and museums operate with volunteers. The schools need volunteers and many of the sports programs and activities for children, such as Cub Scouts, can’t be offered without volunteers.

However, the need is not a reason to step forward. I did some research via the Internet on the qualities of a good volunteer that you can review as a guideline to uncover what work you might do in 2012.

Yahoo listed five characteristics of a good volunteer: passion, commitment, positive attitude, dependability and punctuality.

First, find something you are passionate about. For example, if you like animals, find a cause that benefits them. This will keep you committed and dependable. Volunteers need to abide by the requirements of the position, whether committing a certain number of hours or serving on a particular day, attending training sessions or finishing tasks. They also need to arrive on time. Most volunteer positions require timeliness such as opening the museum or library according to the hours posted or driving children to a sporting event.

Finally, volunteering isn’t a half-hearted endeavor, according to Yahoo. It requires enthusiasm and energy, no matter the task.

A website, called “Voluntary Worker,” posted an article written by Jeff Durham in which volunteers were described as “Regular people who give up some of their time to help individuals, organizations and causes out of choice and for no financial gain in return.”

Webster’s Dictionary describes a volunteer as “One who enters into or offers himself for a service of his own free will.”

According to Durham, volunteering is “expressing concern about something or somebody other than oneself. It’s about putting in the time, effort and commitment to help fellow men, women or animals or to contribute towards a cause that you feel passionate about.”

Often people have skills that can steer them toward the right volunteer position. For example, Adele Emershaw, superintendent of Westwood Unified School District, mentioned people with knowledge about plants and gardening are needed to develop the area around the outdoor classroom recently installed on the playground at Fletcher Walker Elementary by Learning Landscapes.

Of course, history buffs will enjoy volunteering at the museum and those who understand and love baseball may want to coach a Little League team.

At other times, people may be passionate about a cause but require training to fill a volunteer position. For example, if you wish to volunteer for a crisis hotline you may need to work with another volunteer and study a manual.

Anyone with a passion for politics will have an opportunity to volunteer for a campaign because 2012 is an election year. Or you might consider running for a board. In Westwood, three seats on the school board are up for election.

This year, assess your interests, skill and passion and invest in your community. It will make a difference by improving quality of life and/or circumstances.


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