Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month? Volunteering is essential to a healthy community – it creates ownership, builds relationships, fosters civic responsibility and fulfills vital needs. Thousands of people in the Erie community have given the gift of themselves by choosing to volunteer. While the Barber National Institute thrives from dozens of volunteers on a daily basis, I thought I would ask two of our long-time volunteers and friends a few questions about their love of volunteering.
To all of our loyal friends, thank you for all you do each and every day to make the dreams of children and adults of the Barber National Institute come true!
How long have you been volunteers?
We have been volunteers most of our adult lives. Judy started in the schools our two sons attended in Ohio, then with the local hospital auxiliary, on church committees and at the local library. She met Dr. Gertrude Barber when we moved to Erie in 1996 and she began volunteering at the then-Barber Center and is in her 20th year.
Jim’s volunteer career began in earnest when we moved to Lewistown, PA in 1981, where he was a member and, at the time, chair of the boards of the local hospital and economic development corporation. Since living in Erie he has volunteered as a board member with United Way, VisitErie, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Athena, Erie Together, and most recently, Erie Arts and Culture.
Judy and Jim share two other volunteer activities. They are both members of the Erie Regional Library Foundation board and are eucharistic ministers at St. Jude the Apostle Church.
What inspired you to begin volunteering?
We are both inspired by the belief that we have a responsibility to help those in need and to give back to the community that enabled us to earn a living. Judy likes to look where there is a need to fill a spot not covered by staff. Jim is inspired by the challenge of helping bring people together to build organizations devoted to the community’s greater good.
What do you look for when selecting a place to volunteer with?
When we look to volunteer, we first decide what interests us, and more importantly, what moves us when we see a need. Then we talk to friends who might know something about where our time and talents might fit best. Reaching out to places that might be a good fit for them and us as volunteers, we then explore what needs to be done, and how that matches our skill sets and available time.
What have you learned as a result of being a volunteer?
Both of us have learned that there are so many caring people, both staff and other volunteers, in the organizations where we choose to volunteer our time. We also know that we get back far more than we give in our volunteer services. For example, at the Barber National Institute Judy enjoys seeing that what she does as a volunteer pleases and makes things easier for the staff she works with. And Jim, who tutors in the Adult Basic Education classes at the Barber National Institute, gets as excited as his students when they succeed in the classroom and are able to carry that success into their everyday lives.
What is one thing you wish more people understood about volunteering?
We wish more people, including retirees like ourselves, realized how easy it is to volunteer. You can decide how little or how much time you want to spend, and you will be welcomed. The need for volunteers always exceeds the supply, And we promise that when each time you volunteer comes to an end, you will feel good about being able to give back to others and that what you have contributed in time and talent has made a difference.