I would like to share a few thoughts about the importance of volunteerism in our society today. The need for services for children and adults with autism is growing exponentially while funding is significantly declining. Each of us should ask the question: What can I do to help?
Volunteerism – Then & Now
Volunteerism has been interwoven in our society for hundreds of years. The notion of volunteerism has been exemplified in the U.S. since the early days of barn raisings and quilting bees. Women notably led volunteer efforts. Social problems such as nursing the sick, antislavery, prison reform, illiteracy and suffrage are examples of traditional women-dominated volunteer roles.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who are 35 years or older are 50% more likely to volunteer than those under the age of 35. This is surprising since the 20 somethings are beginning their careers and would significantly benefit from the networking, skill building, and leadership development that occur through volunteerism.
Following completion of graduate school, I returned to Erie with minimal contacts. I joined the Junior League of Erie and benefited from their extensive training, volunteer opportunities within the community and forming lifelong friendships. Since that initial step into the volunteer world, I have volunteered on numerous local, state and national boards relating to disabilities, education and child development. All this has led to greater opportunities and resources not only for me, but for the Barber National Institute too.
The Barber National Institute is fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers who support our mission and contribute their time and talent. I would like to share with you three brief stories of volunteers in the Elizabeth Lee Black School.
As president of our Parent Group, Marci Smith has built a coalition of parents whose children were enrolled in our school. The largest project she spearheaded was publishing Angels in the Kitchen cookbook. The proceeds from all fundraisers that Marci and the Parent Group coordinate benefit special activities for the students throughout the school year. Marci is a positive ambassador for the Barber National Institute by reaching out to the community to tell our story and her family’s story.
Judy Dible came to us shortly after relocating to the Erie area. She wanted to work in a school office and we needed someone to help out a few hours a week. It was a perfect fit. That was many years ago, and she still is making time for us. Judy’s many hours of volunteerism has saved us thousands of dollars that we are able to direct to services for our students.
After Susan Currie’s daughters went off to college, she wanted to do something meaningful with her spare time. With a background in teaching ice skating to children with disabilities, as well as typical children, I told her of our need for a volunteer in the school fitness center. Another perfect match. Four years later, Susan still comes twice a week. She finds great satisfaction in working with children with significant cognitive and physical challenges. And they benefit from her untiring devotion.
We wouldn’t be able to accomplish many of things that we do for the children without Marci, Judy and Susan’s dedication and enthusiasm to lead the way.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Ready to volunteer? Any non-profit can benefit from your help. Choose something you are genuinely passionate about and start making a difference. It will be a win-win for everyone!
Already an active volunteer? Share your experiences below!