On Tuesday night, one of the hardest working women around was honored with a commendation from the City of Inglewood. Long time resident Ethel Austin was acknowledged by Mayor James Butts and council members for volunteer work with the Special Olympics. Ethel assisted members of Team Jamaica, making sure everyone had what they needed. It was a well deserved honor that I know she will never forget.
This is not the first Ethel has given her time to others in our community. And I know it won’t be her last. She belongs to a special group of individuals who have made volunteerism a part of their lifestyle.
This week, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it is not hard to see the valuable roles that volunteers play. Had it not been for volunteers registering African Americans to vote, we would have lagged further behind politically. As significant as the voter legislation was, black folks still needed to move their feet. That meant sending grassroots volunteers into urban and rural areas to make sure everyone had an opportunity to make their voices heard.
Many people who might volunteer cite a lack of time as the reason they don’t. But really it does not take a lot of time. As little as a couple of hours a week can make a big difference in the lives of youth, senior citizens or those with physical disabilities. There are so many needs that it is not difficult to find your niche.
I love the message on the Volunteers of America (www.voa.org) website: “Not every American lives the American dream. This is why we do what we do.”
When you find a person or cause that you feel compassion for, you will gladly donate your time. It’s about finding something that is bigger than yourself.
Every great leader has at some time or another volunteered for something they believed in. The act of putting your time, thought, effort and energy into something solidifies belief in what you are doing. It provides evidence that what you are engaged in is worthy.
There is another important reason to volunteer. It makes you feel so good, knowing you have helped someone, lifted someone’s spirits or found an answer to a problem. Parents who feel their children have become unappreciative should consider getting them involved in community work. Seeing how less fortunate people live will foster compassion and gratitude. It will humble them and build character.
So kudos to Ethel, and three cheers for volunteers. You are the special people that make life special for everyone. Volunteers of America helps more than 2 million people annually. Check out their website (www.voa.org) and learn how you can help.