The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Summer Teal Simpson, one of Savannah’s non-stop movers, shakers, and all round hip people. Read on for Summer’s approach to making good things happen……
I moved to Savannah nearly six years ago, leaving behind fast-paced life in Atlanta in favor of the charm, the ease, and the eccentricity of the Hostess City. Finding myself in a state of professional transition, I waltzed into the United Way building in search of a position volunteering until steady employment came along.
That’s the day I met Shirley Sessions, the director of Hands On Savannah, the volunteer center of United Way of the Coastal Empire (UWCE). She was instantly – and is still – one of my most favorite people I’ve ever met. She is genuine, kind, fun and remarkable champion and vehicle for volunteerism in Savannah. By the end of that meeting, our fates were sealed. I would go to work for her in service as AmeriCorps Project Coordinator. It was a tremendous introduction to this great community and one of the more uplifting professional endeavors I’ve ever been part of.
Three weeks ago I received an email from Shirley. I was tickled to hear from her and honored to accept her invitation to serve as a judge for the upcoming 33rd Annual UWCE Volunteer Awards & Recognition Luncheon on April 25th. The luncheon honors extraordinary volunteer work in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty counties and presents awards in the following categories: Animal Advocacy, Cultural Arts/History, Education, Environmental/Conservation, Health & Human Services.
Prior to my involvement with Hands On Savannah, I naively undervalued volunteerism and its game changing impact on communities. In Savannah alone, it is the dedication of countless volunteers that provides some fairly basic level social services to the people of this community – be it the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, or the youth. It is also volunteer hours served that help to uplift arts, cultural affairs, and humanities, protect our precious natural resources, and support animal welfare organizations.
As one Brian O’Connell is attributed as saying, “Volunteering creates a national character in which the community and the nation take on a spirit of compassion, comradeship and confidence.” Evidence suggests that a community rich in volunteers boasts a healthier, more involved, more prideful constituency. It has further been suggested that “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy,” with volunteerism equating hands-on participation in community building and the shaping of a citizenry.
Correlation has been found between service and health benefits, with ICM Research indicating that repeat volunteers report weight loss, lower usage of alcohol and cigarettes, and reduced stress and overall depression. Professionally, as I quickly discovered, volunteers are found to have improved team work, better leadership skills, and a higher likelihood of promotion and salary increase. This explains why many of the largest corporations are requiring or encouraging company-wide community service programs and volunteer engagement.
I’ll leave you with some additional compelling facts on volunteerism, but first I want to implore you with a call to action. In a community the size of the one we share, each of us has a great ability and responsibility to affect change. I challenge you to evaluate your role therein. Through organizations like Hands On Savannah you can become involved in any number of service opportunities that impact the lives of others… and can result in noticeable changes to your own.
Some facts on volunteering:
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rate rose by 0.5 percentage point to 26.8 percent for the year ending in September 2011.
- According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 62.7 million Americans, or 26.5 percent of the adult population, gave 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $173 billion in 2010.
- According to the Independent Sector, the estimated value of volunteer time for 2011 is $21.79 per hour.
The 33rd Annual Volunteer Awards & Recognition Luncheon takes place from 11:45 am – 1:00 pm on April 25th at Savannah Station. Tickets are available for $20 per person. For additional information, visit www.uwce.org or www.handsonsavannah.org.
Summer Teal Simpson