Why service is one of the most powerful things you can do

Apr 17, 2015

Volunteers from our sponsor UnitedHealthcare helped us give the Westport Boys & Girls Club a fresh new look as part of Uncommon Athlete Week in Baltimore City last November.

April 12-18 is National Volunteer Week, which celebrates something near and dear to my heart.  Volunteering and community service are a key part of the path that led me to the awesome work that I get to do at the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (AmeriCorps*VISTA Class of 2007!) and have been the basis for many fond and funny memories.  But there are two things that drive my belief that service is one of the most powerful things you can do.

You get to work with and learn from amazing people.

As a volunteer, you can find yourself doing things you never imagined with a great team of people you may not have otherwise met.  It can be a good stretch of one’s skills—or at least make for an interesting story.  The best stories, however, often come out of asking volunteers how they got to be here, in this place, working towards this mission.  Whether you’re volunteering or earning a living at the same time, the team of people making the world a better place is pretty incredible.  Everyone has their own path and their own reasons, and if you ask, you can hear some incredible stories and get to know some amazing leaders. 

While it’s important to thank and recognize volunteers throughout the year, National Volunteer Week can be a reminder to make sure volunteers know the magnitude of their contributions towards your mission and to the people you serve.  Understanding what motivates your volunteers is also key to celebrating the individual and recognizing them in a way that is personally rewarding.

Serving others inspires and empowers more than just the intended beneficiaries. 

Once we were cleaning up a park in Washington, DC, when a teenager stopped by and asked if he could join.  Apparently, this was a park where he and his friends played, and he was excited that others were making it look nice and he wanted to pitch in.  Prior to seeing the team of volunteers working on the park, he didn’t feel like he could make a difference by himself, but now he saw that he could and that he wouldn’t be alone.

Serving others can be a powerful way for kids to see what they’re capable of—that they are not simply passengers in life but can be drivers with a lot to offer.  Plus, it’s a great way to learn hands-on, to meet and interact with all kinds of people, be a part of something bigger, practice leadership, and have fun with friends. 

Check out these blog posts, too:

How is your organization celebrating National Volunteer Week?