When you give back to others, you are giving something to yourself.

Regardless of any obstacle, adversity or limitation, there is always something a person can do to contribute to the world and volunteering is just one way a person can be a productive member of society.

My story of volunteering

When I was young, I was a distraction to my Sunday school teacher.  To keep me from being a complete disruption to her class, it was arranged that another adult would take me out of my classroom and have me accompany them around the church and collect attendance cards from all the classrooms.

From those days in Sunday school, I may not have learned all I could about the Bible and being a Christian, but I found a love for helping others (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus wasn’t happy about that discovery) that has always been a major part of my life.

Since second grade, when my bus driver Dolly always played a portable radio on the bus, I wanted to be a morning disc jockey.  Working in radio was something I wanted to do, because as I put it when I was young “I wanted to help people start their day off with a smile on their face.”

My first year of college, I studied broadcast radio and even worked at the college radio station at first being part of a morning radio show then later hosting my own morning show on KCFV Ferguson – the radio station for St. Louis Community College in Florissant MO.

As my college career lingered on, for nearly 2 decades, I also worked in several computer science labs, where I had the honor and privilege of helping students with computer assignments.

Almost every job I had in my life helped people.  I worked as a tutor, a customer service rep for a small Internet company, a ran my own computer software training business, and my own web design business.  There were only 2 jobs that I worked at that I felt I wasn’t helping people: when I worked at KCIV as a board operator and when I worked selling on eBay.

The latter job, which I did for nearly 10 years, I quit at the end of 2010 when I felt a strong desire to return to what made me happy, helping others.

Living in a small town (Joplin MO) with a disability and limited transportation options, my prospects for employment were bleak to say the least (not to mention a long gap between traditional jobs due to my ischemic stroke to my spinal cord). 

One Sunday morning at church I heard about this new program that was launching in our community called lunch buddies.  A lunch buddy is an adult who is paired with a school aged student and has lunch with the student at least once a week at the youngster’s school.  I applied at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jasper County office, was approved and quickly matched with a fourth grader.

A little over a year later, I also began volunteering at our local hospital.  First escorting visitors around the hospital, later I transferred from that position to working in the Intensive care unit where I checked visitors in and answered the unit’s phones.

Next month, I will be celebrating 8 years as a lunch buddy.  During the past 8 years, I have had lunch with the same person will be graduating from high school this spring.  My 8-year record is currently the longest match both in the lunch buddy program and in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Jasper and Newton Counties program.

I resigned from my volunteer position at Freeman health system in 2017, after working for them for over 5 years.  During my time with Freeman, I earned recognition for my volunteer work.  I received the salute to health care volunteer of the year from the Joplin Regional Business Journal and the MAHA (Missouri Association of Hospital Auxiliaries) volunteer of the year in 2016. 

The awards were nice, but what meant more to me were the friendships I made and the countless number of people who I helped during my tenure.

You do not need to wait until you are older or disabled to volunteer.  You can start volunteering today.  Find something that you enjoy doing and start looking for somewhere to volunteer.  They’re hundreds of non-profits that could use your help.  You will get a good feeling for helping others.  If that is not a good enough reason (and in my book it should be) it looks great on college and job applications.