In this time of giving, many people think of the needs of others and decide to volunteer at a food pantry, or with the elderly or children in need. Some people volunteer at specific times of the year, like during the holidays; others volunteer year-round with various organizations. Volunteering is a noble activity–giving of your time, energy, knowledge and skills to benefit others with no expectation of receiving back anything but a “Thank you” and a good feeling. Yet, many volunteers DO expect something more, whether it’s professional connections, skills development, a sense of superiority, or something else entirely.
Volunteering is a topic not often spoken about in the #SAPro world. We’re all so busy with our paying gigs that volunteering, which we encourage or even demand of our students, isn’t thought of outside of specific work-related initiatives or within our professional organizations. I can’t believe that we’re not volunteering though; could it simply be we’re not talking about our non-work-related activities?
If I had enough money to justify not working, I’d flip my schedule: get a part-time role in a college and spend the other 40-ish hours each week volunteering. Most of that time would be spent with the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA, with whom I’ve been a volunteer for 9 years. Serving as a Girl Scout volunteer has given me opportunities I don’t get as a professional—I train adult volunteers; mentor high school girls earning their Gold Award; and serve as a voting member for my council, both regionally and nationally.
Volunteering outside of Higher Education gives me another purpose in life; something to occupy my time and mind that doesn’t have anything to do with my career. As much as I love being an active member of the Massachusetts College Personnel Association, it’s still very much related to work and my career. I have to be “on” in a way that isn’t required with Girl Scouts because “it’s such a small field, and you never know who’s around.” In Girl Scouts, my job doesn’t matter–I’ve built a place for myself despite what I do or don’t do to earn a living, or what my educational background is.
I feel comfortable in Girl Scouts in a way I’ve never felt in any other experience I’ve had. Maybe it has to do with the 9 years I spent as a girl member and the 2 I was a camp counselor. Maybe, as I described above, it’s the benefit of stepping outside of the office so to speak. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. I’m fortunate to have the ability to give back to an organization that gave and gives me so much, to make a direct difference in the lives of others.
The #SAVolunteers series will explore volunteering in all its forms, for all its reasons. When you leave your office, are you going to a community organization to put in more hours? Do you spend as much or more time with people outside of the profession as you do with? Are you active with your professional organization of choice? Share your story; in this time of giving, brag a little and get yourself a pat on the back.
> BONUS <
Podcast With John Moist on AmeriCorps & Student Affairs