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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks to/for Veterans and Volunteers*

Note: The following article of mine was *published in Suffolk New-Herald's Opinion page, four years ago today.

Veterans and volunteers, and volunteers who are young ones, and veterans...they're everywhere.

They're in churches, in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes. They're in schools, in shopping malls and in stores. You can find them in soup kitchens and on field trips, in polling places during election day, and especially on the scene at disasters or natural calamities. They come in different sizes and shapes, different colors and socio-economic backgrounds, too. They are our volunteers, the backbone of our community and our country.

In good times or bad, they're still there. They don't mind sharing of themselves, their time time, talents, and treasures. They love to do things for others. hence, they're worthy of our respect, admiration, and gratitude. 

(Who or what is a volunteer?) Why do people volunteer? What inspires or motivates them to do so? Varied answers and reasons, for sure.

(Edward Linderman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University and specialist in Community Organization, once wrote that a volunteer is a person who acts on his or her own free will. He or she is the uncoerced person. He or she volunteers because s/he really cares what happens to people. that means that he or she is a responding person. That's what the word "responsible" means---responding to need.)

One time, when I visited Portsmouth Naval Medical Center (where I've worked there for eleven years and retired in 2005), I was surprised to find out that Mr. John, 72, was still doing volunteer work there, delivering and distributing donated books and magazines from one clinic or department to another for (out)patients waiting for their turn to be called for care and/or service. I asked him why he's still volunteering when he should have been enjoying his life. " I am enjoying my life," he said. "I love doing it for our patients and other people." Meanwhile, at the Pharmacy, I came across another retired veteran, Bob, who was manning the lines for those healthcare beneficiaries waiting for their name to be called to get their prescription medication. When asked the same question, he simply replied, "I just want to help, man!" 

This past summer, the American Red Cross sponsored the annual Volunteer Program at NMCP. Turnout was overwhelming. When I asked some of the teen volunteers who were assigned duties in pediatrics, NICU, and ICU what they thought of their volunteer work, almost all of them had positive comments about the program. One of them said that it would help her choose a career in either nursing or medicine. Another responded by saying, "I volunteered to try to help patients and to understand what they're going through while receiving care."

Isn't it interesting how often volunteerism and activism work hand in hand? Consider the following scenarios:

Volunteers help raise money for countless worthy causes. The salvation Army, the March of Dimes, the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, United States Marines' Toys for Tots and other community projects all rely on the help of selfless volunteers. (I remember, when I was still active duty, I did volunteer for Toys for Tots, in my U.S. Navy uniform, manning one of the collection boxes where donors donate new toys which will eventually be sorted out and distributed to kids in the community.)

We see them ringing bells in front of chain stores. We also see them manning the pledge phones during Jerry Lewis' Telethon or PBS' Fall Pledge Campaign, etc. We see them in schools, partnering with teachers, helping a kid to read in class, or monitoring students during recess or on field trips.

We see them in libraries, grocery stores, even on battlefields (reenactment, that is). Yes, my dear folks and friends, our volunteers are everywhere. They're (tirelessly) responsible, compassionate and considerate. 

In closing, I'd like to say this: This holiday season, let's give thanks to/for all the volunteers among us. May their tribe increase!-chris a. quilpa, 20Nov2008

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