National Volunteer Week: UW staff shares what volunteering means to them

In honor of National Volunteer Week, United Way staff took a moment to share what volunteerism means to them.

“Our Thanksgiving Project is no small feat. It’s months of planning, weeks of organizing, days of labor, and stress and craziness in between. But when you see the smiles, feel the hugs, hear the thank yous, and see people’s lives changing in the moment they receive a bag of food-it makes “every bag count”, every early morning, and every sore muscle more than worth it. This project reminds me why I do the work that I do. If you stuffed one bag or handed out one turkey, you made someone’s life better and that’s all that matters.”  –Emily Stanford

“Every night of the year, that’s 365 nights a year – volunteers cook and serve dinner to the homeless families who are guests of the Seacoast Family Promise shelter program, a funded partner of United Way.  Families live a week at a time at approximately 8 different area houses of worship. I have volunteered for SFP for about 10 years. That’s actually a very small commitment, since I only serve for one evening every 8 weeks, when families are spending their week at “my” location.  Our guests are often working moms, dads and/or grandparents.  Sometimes they are unemployed or underemployed, but all have dependent children whose ages have ranged from newborns to seniors in high school.  Having the opportunity to sit down and eat a meal and share conversation with a Seacoast Promise family is a humbling experience – and a reason to be thankful to come to work for United Way each day.” –Robin, United Way Greater Seacoast

“For me, volunteering in the community breaks down walls dividing “us” and “them” and reinforces the notion that we all are part of  the same community.”  –Catherine

“For many years, my family and I volunteered at a local food pantry.  The purpose was to instill in my son the value of helping those less fortunate than us.  It certainly worked: even as a 19 year old running his own business, he has a number of clients who he provides free service to.  One is a single mom working three jobs to make ends meet, and another is a person who has been out of work since he broke his neck.  The greatest part is that we didn’t suggest he do this, he just did it on his own.  Volunteering as a family will have a lasting impact beyond the time you invest yourself.” –Paul DeBassio

“For a volunteer event I went to I read to a young girl at Girls Inc. who was in the Summer Learning program. It was very touching to sit down and read with her – she was really trying to read, doing a good job, and I felt like I was making a difference in her life, in that moment.” – Emily Horsford

“As cheesy as it sounds, volunteering makes my heart feel full. For only a little bit of time, some effort, and a smile, I get to make a difference in my community.” –Erin Lee

“When I volunteered at Ellis Memorial with the Women’s Initiative it was a wonderful experience to read to such eager little people! They really are little people with personalities, likes and dislikes, energy and intelligence. The diversity of children in the class room of 3-5 year olds was awesome! They were very into the Green Eggs and Ham and loved the rhyming and the way I used voice inflection and allowing them opportunities to participate in the reading. I recommend reading to children at least once per month if you can! It’s a small act with a huge impact. They are also so funny and make you feel like a kid again.”  –Alicia Canady Adamson

“The kids are wonderful – bright, eager, curious, full of energy.  They dwell on every word and wriggle with delight at each plot twist and surprise.  Research shows reading aloud to children at an early age helps with language and cognitive development.  I can attest that it has other benefits as well – it puts a smile on my face and brightens my day!  A definite a win-win!” –Lou Stamas, United Way Greater Seacoast

“Volunteering gives me a chance to connect with people and experience things that I don’t get to in everyday life whether it’s acting as a mentor to a Little Sister, reading to a group of 3 year-olds, or helping at a food pantry, it’s a great way to leave behind the stress of work, home life and step outside of myself to give back. It’s usually a very humbling but also energizing experience. – Erin Sunderland