The Rewards of Volunteering


ADS Advisory Council chair Tony Provine (left) talked with Richard Lemieux, author of Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey, at an Advisory Council meeting in 2011.

Every society knows the merits of volunteerism. It has familial, communal and tribal roots—people coming together to help one another or working together to accomplish a common goal. It recalls images of barn-raisings, cathedral building, and communal hunting and farming.

Modern civilization has changed the nature of volunteerism but has not reduced the need for it. The complexities of modern life continue to create new challenges that need to be overcome. But, globally and locally, we must still deal with the urgency of fulfilling basic needs for many—food, shelter, clothing, and health, as well as freedom from exploitation and violence. The work of volunteers and nongovernmental organizations has been critical in overcoming these problems.

There are as many ways to volunteer as there are individuals. For a volunteer, the rewards come from the act itself—a sense of purpose and the joy of accomplishment. Volunteers strengthen and enrich our society with the value of the time and services they donate. Their generosity and their efforts can bring a measure of hope and happiness where it is needed most. The infectious nature of this giving spirit touches the lives of many and inspires others to join them.

Too often, our volunteers and their work go unreported. Maybe they are a little shy or too humble to let others know. Maybe they have a personal or emotional connection to the work they perform that makes it difficult to talk about. Or maybe their work is taken for granted.

Acknowledging these deeds and recognizing the people who perform them is a fundamental way to encourage more volunteerism. We should always cherish our volunteers and find ways to show our appreciation for them. They are irreplaceable.

—Tony Provine, Chair
Seattle King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services