I started volunteering when I was very young. I’m from Omaha, Nebraska and I still vividly remember when a tornado touched down in 1975 and devastated parts of the city. At that time, I was a teenager, and my dad and I helped with the clean-up for a few days. I remember coming across a house that had its roof ripped off and debris was everywhere. This moment really touched me from a volunteering standpoint. To see the devastation firsthand and to be able to make an impact by helping the people in immediate need made a huge impression on me. I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing.
Find your passion
To make an impact and help others, you just have to look around. In my case, I ran across a volunteer opportunity with Synergy Services‡ while browsing UMB’s intranet. Synergy needed volunteers to help review essays submitted by local K-12 students in the “Kindest Kansas Citian” essay contest. I read hundreds of letters — all of them great — but there was one that stood out and was ultimately selected as one of the top essays.
The essay happened to be written by a young boy in my church parish. His father was dying from cancer and his “Kindest Kansas Citian” was the fire chief, who was also his dad’s boss. The chief had done incredible things for the family, and this was so touching to me. I knew from that moment that I had to be more involved with Synergy Services and not just for one volunteer event. My advice to others is to find what you’re passionate about, then look for opportunities that match your interests, skills and schedule. Over the years, I’ve volunteered with many organizations, and each experience was rewarding. But it wasn’t until Synergy Services that I found what I was really passionate about, and that is helping others in need.
Don’t be afraid to ask
When I was volunteering with Synergy Services and reading those letters, I developed a clearer picture of just how many people in our community need a helping hand. Synergy works to create a community free of violence, working with children, teens and adults to solve issues ranging from domestic violence to hunger. I knew I wanted to deepen my involvement with Synergy but didn’t know where to start, so I set up a meeting with the director and simply asked how I could help.
More than two years have passed since I was first introduced to Synergy and I’m now on the board of directors, something I did not expect to happen so quickly. However, based on my schedule, I knew I was able to serve throughout the year. If you can afford the time, nonprofit board and committee service is extremely rewarding. I think it’s wonderful that what began as a one-time volunteer opportunity, offered through UMB’s volunteer time off program, turned into a rewarding and ongoing leadership opportunity that has allowed me to leverage my professional and personal strengths to serve others. During 2021 National Volunteer Week, a small group of UMB associates volunteered in Synergy’s food pantry. I love how my continued service spurs others to get involved, too.
Everyone can add value
There are plenty of ways to support nonprofits throughout all stages of your life. My kids are grown so I have more time to volunteer on a weekly basis. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can volunteer for a weekend event or contribute to your favorite cause with a monetary donation. UMB’s volunteer time off program is designed to make it easy for our associates to support their local communities by providing 16 hours of paid time off so associates can volunteer during the workday.
When I started searching for volunteer opportunities, I wondered how much value I could really add. What I found was that no matter your skillset, you add value. Sometimes an organization just needs boots on the ground, sometimes they are looking for advice from a financial standpoint and sometimes they just need a perspective from somebody that has had other life experiences — like helping a community clean up after a tornado some 50 years ago. We all bring something to the table, whether that is your time, leadership or wallet.
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