Capturing the essence of volunteering

I attended a rally this weekend for Volunteers In Mission who
travel to all parts of the world to participate in volunteer work.
Volunteers are peace makers. Volunteers don’t waste their time
trying to determine blame.
I attended a rally this weekend for Volunteers In Mission who travel to all parts of the world to participate in volunteer work. Volunteers are peace makers. Volunteers don’t waste their time trying to determine blame. Volunteers want to know what needs to be fixed and how they can fix it. Volunteers just get in there and get the job done. I know Volunteers who fly non-stop for 18 hours to reach a destination such as Africa University in Zimbabwe, and then become upset if anything prevents them from getting started on their work as soon as they get off the plane, not even expecting to take recovery time for jet lag. That’s the kind of enthusiasm Volunteers possess.

CARE-A-VANers are local retirees with recreational vehicles who take the opportunity to share their time and skills with those who need them. CARE-A-VANers travel to wherever they are invited to paint churches, fix floors, do repairs, and rebuild after fire.

Jim and Carol Floyd went as recent volunteers to work in the small town of Colinette in Baja, Mexico, where they built a kitchen in a school where children were starving. Now the children there know they will receive at least one hot meal a day when they are in school.

And right here in our own backyards: there are so many volunteers who keep things running smoothly in Gilroy. There are volunteers who work at St. Louise; they assist both the public who are visiting the hospital and the patients staying in the hospital who need their company and their comfort. There are volunteers who provide meals at retirement homes; there are teams of volunteers who are preparing to feed the homeless at the National Guard Armory as the weather turns colder.

A local woman who prefers to remain anonymous has been hosting refugees in her home for years. She has invited refugees from many different countries to come stay in her home here for periods of time until they could get back on their feet and make their way in the world again, including people from Vietnam, and most recently she is offering a place in her home to refugees from war-torn Africa.

There is a nonprofit organization called Foodlink with the mission of finding sensible solutions to hunger that has just recently begun distributing food in Gilroy in a program called Food OP (Food Opportunities). Foodlink is a food bank which distributes emergency commodities and privately donated food through a network of food closets, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. At no cost to recipient agencies, Foodlink delivers millions of pounds of food throughout California. In addition, Foodlink offers low-cost job-training courses designed to give people skills that lead to employment and provides support services and paid job-training.

Local citizen Madri is one of the volunteers responsible in Gilroy for taking orders for food and keeping account of those orders. Keith Sottilare, Charles Krahenbuhl, and Madri see that the food is properly distributed upon delivery each month. People who wish to support Foodlink sign up to receive a box of various groceries from the Food OP program for $15.25 that would cost a minimum of $40 (or more) to purchase separately in a grocery store. For more information, please contact me at my e-mail address.

But why volunteer, some people ask. As you may know from reading my column, I was part of a Volunteer In Mission team from Gilroy that went to work in Wales last summer at a school for disadvantaged youth. There are four main reasons given by those who get the most out of volunteering, and I find myself agreeing with them. “I am making a difference,” Sue tells me, a volunteer helping our recent fire victims. “I’m part of something bigger than myself,” BethAnn explains, a volunteer with the learning disabled. “I feel a sense of renewal,” CARE-A-VANer Bob explains, “I’m living out my faith and values in a real way.” “For me, it’s an increased sense of gratitude,” says Jim Indurain, a Volunteer in Mission, “it’s a reminder of just how much I enjoy and a way for me to give some of that back.”

When a Volunteer In Mission group came to paint her church, 10-year-old Lupita wrote this thank you letter to the volunteers, which perhaps best captures the kind of genuine gratitude volunteer work inspires:

“Thank you for painting the church. I think it looks better. The church looked like throw-up, but now it looks like a castle. Thank you for working on it for so long. We could have paid but we didn’t have money. I don’t know how to thank you. So thank you guys and gals for painting our church. I know you worked so hard, probably you too were disgusted by that color. Because I truly was. If I had my room that color I would never go in it. Hey but it would be cleaner!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!”

Kat Teraji’s column is published every Thursday in The Dispatch. You can reach her at [email protected]

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