Volunteerism should be embraced

National Volunteer Week, which will be observed across the United States beginning Sunday, is an opportunity for all Central Pennsylvania residents to reflect on how they might help make someone else’s life better, while also bringing more satisfaction and fulfillment to their own lives.

Looking ahead to Volunteer Week, the Mirror, last Sunday, provided a look at the scope of volunteerism in this region, and how volunteers are helping to make groups and other entities better at carrying out their important missions.

In addition, Mirror reporter Walt Frank’s report regarding the Central Pennsylvania volunteer scene touched on benefits young people can gain from giving of their time, rather than remaining glued to a TV set or some electronic communication device.

It can’t be said too often that no one is too old to volunteer. People of this area have performed volunteer work while well into their 90s, and became heartbroken when health issues or other circumstances prevented them from continuing.

Consider some of the findings of Frank’s research:

n At UPMC Altoona last year, 350 active volunteers provided 52,000 hours of service.

n About 900 volunteers donated 4,500 hours of their spare time to the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA over those same 12 months.

n Blair Senior Services Inc. derived many benefits from the 394 people who contributed 61,255 hours as volunteers in 2016.

n Tyrone Hospital and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, Huntingdon, recorded fewer volunteer hours — Tyrone, between 1,000 and 1,500, and J.C. Blair, 6,900 — due to their smaller size but benefited significantly from them nonetheless.

Meanwhile, on the statewide level, consider the experience of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, which has about 30,000 coaches and volunteers making reality the dreams of the special individuals whom the organization serves. People who attend Special Olympics events oftentimes express amazement regarding the commitment and enthusiasm of the volunteers.

Volunteerism has come a long way since President Richard M. Nixon established National Volunteer Week with an executive order in 1974. However, Nixon’s order didn’t create volunteer service; rather, it provided a format, going forward, for acknowledging those who contribute so much in the volunteer ranks.

But there are other, oftentimes-less-noticed volunteers who deserve to be remembered during Volunteer Week also — such as people who regularly help an elderly neighbor without expecting compensation.

There are myriad other examples of volunteerism going on right now in this region that also deserve recognition, but most volunteers aren’t giving of their time because of a desire to be praised.

Many feel that being a volunteer actually is benefiting themselves more than those who benefit from their efforts. Many retirees who opt to become volunteers speak about how that service keeps their minds active and helps them to feel younger.

For young people such as high school students, volunteering sometimes is a pathway to selection of a lifelong career. Don’t let the coming week pass without reflecting on the work that volunteers do. And, if you encounter a volunteer during the course of your day, don’t hesitate to let him or her know that you notice the work he or she is doing.

Last Sunday’s article referred to volunteers as the backbone of many organizations. If you have time available, add your strengths to that backbone.