Tuesday, December 12

Who Says Volunteering is a Waste of Time

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When I was younger, I didn’t volunteer for anything.  I thought it was uncool and stupid to volunteer my time and not get paid or gain anything from it.  If I was to do anything, I waited until someone asked or begged, which was more often the case, and even than, I would not give my all unless there was something in it for me.  That was than.  Not I see that, although volunteering doesn’t pay with money, you gain a lot more than that by helping the community and people in need.  That is reward enough for me now!

My addiction to volunteering started in 1999.  I applied for a grant that intended to help young people pursue careers in the arts.  I was one of the youths picked to participate in the 10-week program which included a four-day long workshop in relationship building and related topics.  I think my attitude changed within hours of arriving for that workshop!  Here were half a dozen people volunteering their time to help me and they were happy to do it!  My outlook towards volunteering continued to change over the course of that weekend and climaxed at a grand finale of an event that set my new found love of volunteering into perspective!  During the last day of the workshop, it was our turn to give something back to the community and see for ourselves how important it is to help others.

We arrived at the senior’s complex near noon that day.  I remember being terrified!  I didn’t know how to relate to seniors!  I didn’t know what to say or how to act or how they would react to me!  My worries dissolved quickly and my troubles were laid to rest very soon after.  The day turned out like nothing I thought it would!  I was lead to a room where a lady named Jeannette was staying.  She greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek and we hit it off right away.  We talked about everything, including how she had no family left and how grateful she was for my visit!  Hours passed so quickly and when the time came to leave, I wanted to stay!  I felt like a new person after that experience and I’ve been volunteering ever since!  I continued to visit senior’s over the next few years, but also started to look for volunteering gigs in the arts to help with my budding career.

February 2000 was an exciting time in my home town of Sydney, Nova Scotia.  The new millennium had just begun and the East Coast music awards were coming to town!  There was a desperate need for volunteers to help out with the event, so I put my name in.  I started out checking tickets for a music association event.  Than I moved to stacking and placing chairs at other seminars and events.  These may seem like mundane jobs, but I felt useful and I was helping out a good cause.  I was also meeting a lot of people and making a lot of connections in the industry.  It was also setting me up for a better and more exciting gig the following night; The Gala Awards Ceremony!  I started of that night passing out programs to people trickling in at the front gate than I was asked to help show people to their seats.  After that, there was nothing else for me to do except sit back and enjoy the show!  I had a choice of watching from a private balcony or anywhere else I could find a seat in the stadium.  The private balcony was nice with the champagne and other party favors, but I preferred to be where the action was out in the stadium where the cameras were rolling and the crowd was excited!  That night I made many new friends and many new contacts and also got to meet a lot of the new and up and coming Canadian musicians!  It was a blast!

I moved to Newfoundland the following year and it didn’t take long for me to find another cause to volunteer for.  Rogers Community Television was looking for people to man the cameras for a new local talk show.  Over the last six years I’ve not only done camera, but I have also done audio, guest relations, switching, and electronic titles and I also directed St. John’s City Hall coverage for two years.  During this time, I have met wonderful people and made life-long friends.  I also get to meet a lot of people from the arts community and I always know what is going on in my area.

As I am still living on the East Coast of Canada, the East Coast Music Awards make an appearance here every four or five years as well.  And I was there when they called out for volunteers in 2005!  This time, I was a seat filler.  I had the best seats in the house down on the floor with all the artists.  Coincidentally, this volunteer gig coincided with my Rogers gig as I was also asked to do camera at another ECMA event, the 72-Hour Jam.  Boy, was I tired after all that, but it was well worth it to help out and to have one of the best weekends in recent memory!

I am still volunteering my time with Rogers once a week, but unfortunately, with a full-time job, I can’t take on anymore volunteer gigs at the moment.  In a lot of ways, my volunteer work is more rewarding than my paid work.  If only I didn’t have to pay rent and buy groceries I would volunteer every day of the week!  I recommend everyone take on at least one volunteering opportunity on the side.  It is a way to help people in need, help out your community, meet new people, and have fun!  It also looks great on a resume! There are many opportunities out there for volunteers from Scouting to soup kitchens to Big Bothers/Big Sisters.  So get out there and start volunteering and see what you have been missing!  

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