Give It Away!

As co-minister of Cedars (and, for nearly 30 years now, numerous other congregations as well), it has been my ongoing privilege to work with hundreds of volunteers. No congregation can survive unless people willingly give their time to help run it. Some folks give loads of time, serving as board chair, for example, or leading the youth group. Others give less (participating in one-time activities or bringing a dish to a potluck, say).

But, everyone who volunteers does so because he or she feels a need to give. And all the studies show that giving of one’s time, talent and treasure is not only great for the organizations that receive the gift, but for the giver as well. Volunteers are generally happier people, research has proven. And, as someone who has worked with volunteers my entire career, I can attest to the truth of that statement.

April 6-13 is National Volunteer Week and people around the country are thanking and appreciating volunteers for the amazing amount of time they give to keep our nation’s religious, social service, arts and other organizations running. Jaco and I want to thank all of Cedars volunteers for the many ways you make our congregational life run smoothly and productively. We truly couldn’t “do church” without you.

(And look ahead to the Cedars Opportunity Fair, coming after church on May 4, for a great overview of all the ways to get involved in this thriving congregation.)

I also want to note that many of us also volunteer beyond Cedars. I am constantly amazed when I hear about the ways our local community is sustained by the people of this church. From such groups as Sustainable Bainbridge to the Friday Tidies to the Interfaith Council to Bainbridge Performing Arts to Helpline to Fishline and beyond, we are a church full of giving people.

Jaco and I believe in volunteering, something our lifestyle here has allowed us to do to a satisfying degree. Jaco is an active docent at Islandwood and was a leader for the recent RePower Bainbridge campaign to save energy, among other Sustainable Bainbridge endeavors. We both volunteer at Bainbridge Performing Arts running concessions and ushering (and I, of course, occasionally acting), and we’re engaged as well in our homeowners association.

But my biggest volunteer gig is at Helpline House where, for five years now, I have spent pretty much every Thursday morning engaging with clients as they shop the food bank. The volunteer manager at Helpline is Marilyn Gremse, Cedars member and a wonderfully committed “wrangler” of hundreds of Helpline volunteers. She asked me, in support of National Volunteer Week to tell her why I volunteer at Helpline. Here’s what I said:

I volunteer each week at Helpline first because I believe in the organization. Helpline is a true multi-service center, providing so much to our community, from food to medical equipment to housing and job support to simple caring. Second, I volunteer because, as a minister in the community, it is good for me to remember that there are those who live in this affluent area who are struggling and that they are my neighbors. Third, coming to Helpline each week grounds me in work that is hands on. I know I make a difference in people’s lives, and that matters to me.

Finally, I volunteer at Helpline because I like it. I enjoy the work, the people I volunteer with, the clients I interact with and the staff who run the place so effectively. Yes, I come home tired after my four-hour shift. But, it’s a really good tired and I always wake up on my Helpline morning excited to join in the good work of an organization whose mission and values I support wholeheartedly.

During this upcoming week of honor, I encourage you to consider how your volunteer commitments make a difference in your life. Post your thoughts on the Cedars Facebook page or just tell a friend. Volunteering is all about Love, really. And as the great Unitarian folksinger Malvina Reynolds once wrote, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more!”

Happy National Volunteer Week to everyone at Cedars!

All the best, Barbara