By Rhonda Hutsell
Special to GUIDON
It is an old saying and a profound truth that it is better to give than to receive. During National Volunteer Week, Sunday through April 21, we celebrate the millions of Americans who volunteer and recognize the extraordinary benefits of service to individuals, communities, and our nation.
America always has had a strong spirit of neighbor helping neighbor. Since our earliest days, citizens have given generously of themselves to improve the lives of others. Today, more than 64 million volunteers serve annually, strengthening the nation’s safety net and providing hundreds of billions of dollars in vital services to our communities. They are doing hard but necessary work: tutoring and mentoring youth, assisting seniors who live independently, supporting veterans and military families, helping communities recover from disasters, and so much more.
As a lifelong volunteer — and a dedicated volunteer coordinator — I know the power of citizens in action. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, after flooding hit Fort Leonard Wood and Waynesville, we saw an extraordinary outpouring of compassion as volunteers came to assist in the recovery effort from all around.
Though volunteers aren’t looking for recognition or reward, they learn the timeless lesson of service: when you help others, you also help yourself. Volunteering is a way to gain experience, sharpen skills, and build valuable social and professional networks and building life-long friendships. It’s a pathway to jobs, education, and other career-building opportunities.
Today, service is helping veterans transition back to civilian life, giving persons with disabilities a chance to reach their full potential, and empowering people from low-income backgrounds to improve their lives. Volunteering is helping people from all backgrounds. Volunteers demonstrate the dedication, accountability, and character that every business and organization looks for in a future employee.
Volunteering also creates the types of active, engaged citizens that our democracy needs. Research shows that people who volunteer are more likely to get involved in groups, stay current on news, participate in elections, and work with their neighbors to solve problems. Our volunteers are resilient and strong.
It’s amazing that a single act can go such a long way, but that is why volunteering is so fundamental to our nation’s well-being and who we are as Americans. During National Volunteer Week, as we celebrate the extraordinary contributions of volunteers, let us also strengthen our efforts to engage all volunteers in serving their communities. A great place to start is myarmyonesource.com where you can find a local volunteer opportunity that fits your interests.
As President Donald Trump stated in his Presidential Proclamation on National Volunteer Week 2018, “one of our nation’s greatest strengths has always been our citizens’ unique commitment to improving the lives of others. The principles of charitable compassion and philanthropic collaboration were at the heart of our founding fathers’ efforts to build a culture that serves the greater good. From our earliest days, Americans have answered the call to help those in need at home and around the world. This service, fundamental to our nation’s character, is renewed each day by citizens who generously give their time and talents to help others. This week we pay tribute to the extraordinary faith-based, nonprofit, national service, service club, military service, and community organizations that provide volunteers with opportunities to serve. These organizations engage and connect Americans from every walk of life. Through the generosity of our citizens, we are reminded that each one of us has a role to play in improving our communities.”
I thank you for what you have done, what you do every day, and what you will continue to do for our installation and surrounding communities.
(Editor’s note: Hutsel is the installation’s Volunteer Corps coordinator.)