What, exactly, is a volunteer and why should anyone choose to volunteer? Very simply, volunteering is about giving, helping other people and our communities; it is about contributing and working with others to build a better community. By doing this work, the volunteer also reaps many rewards.
For example, in my role as director of the United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, I am an advocate for encouraging our younger folks to volunteer. Why? It’s a great way to gain experience that translates into a lot more than just a good feeling and a wonderful memory. By volunteering, we gain experience, new skills, expand our network of contacts, which will almost certainly help in getting a new job or in starting a career. At the same time, many volunteers simply want to give back to their community or help a friend or group.
At its’ core, volunteering isn’t about money although we can easily assign a value for the work. In fact, the government sector has assigned a value that fluctuates slightly, but it stands about $24 an hour for volunteer contributed time. In Tennesse alone, that means millions of dollars per year go into our communities because volunteers chose to give back. For a nonprofit like us, these numbers are useful to show the economic benefit to our communities and to show another aspect of how our United Way is involved with helping local people.
Still, I regret to see volunteerism measured in terms of dollars because there is so much more to the act of volunteering. For our United Way, volunteering is about organizing large groups of volunteers for large events and handfuls of people for smaller projects that make real contributions. These acts, large and small, given freely, are what bring our communities together.
All this being said, volunteer efforts should be recognized by the people who benefit most from them – in other words, us. For the ninth year, our county will again, recognize our local volunteers by joining the Tennessee Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards program. In order to do this, we will need your help. The Lebanon Democrat, the county mayor’s office and UWWUC will again work together to find outstanding volunteers who should be recognized for their generosity, hard work and contributions to Wilson County.
Nominating someone only takes a few minutes and is a simple process. Although you can drop by one of our offices and ask for a form, the easiest way is to simply visit wilsoncountytn.gov, visit the resources page and click on the 2017 Volunteer Stars Awards application and follow the instructions. You can also fill out a form online at lebanondemocrat.com/gvsa. All nominees will be recognized, and two will be honored at our state awards ceremony in early 2018. Please pass the word along to your friends, club and church members and fill out nomination forms soon. It only takes a moment but rewards those who help us all.
John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.