JARS v56n2 - From the President

From the President
Volunteers - Who Are They? Are You A Volunteer?
H. Edward Reiley
Woodsboro, Maryland

Did you ever stop to think who makes up this great organization of ours? You and me, our two staff members, and many others who fall under the category of "volunteers" are the ARS.

Webster defines a volunteer as one who proceeds from the will or from one's own choice or consent, "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service." Synonyms are: voluntary, intentional, deliberate, willing.

Let's explore these synonyms briefly as defined in the dictionary. "Willing" means done or brought about of one's own will. "Voluntary" implies freedom and spontaneity of choice or action without external compulsion. "Intentional" stresses an awareness of an end to be achieved. "Deliberate" implies full consciousness of the nature of one's act and its consequences.

There are many ways one volunteers in organizations such as the ARS. You may serve as an officer, district director, committee chair, or member or you may support the activities of the organization by donating funds, materials, equipment, plants for plant sales, driving new members to their first meeting, greeting members as they enter the meeting room, or numerous other activities. The important point is that you be an active volunteer. Our two staff members are also volunteers. I personally know they give many hours above and beyond that expected to turn out a professional, quality product.

Volunteers have freedom of choice; they may serve their organization or just belong for the information they gather, etc. So how do we keep a volunteer organization active and effective? All members must be welcomed and made to feel a part of the family. When I attend a meeting of the Mason Dixon Chapter, it's like a family reunion. Every member is welcomed at the door with some genuine interest and pleasure at seeing us there. With this atmosphere, when asked to serve in performing an activity, it is easy to say yes. You know there will be help, if you need it.

To keep a volunteer organization effective, members must be involved so they feel a part of the group and that they, in some way, contributed to the success of that group. As mentioned earlier participation comes from many levels, all-important to the success of the group.

If this volunteer thing is a giving process, how do we attract members to the organization? We do so by giving something in return to the volunteer. Most people want to feel wanted and be part of a friendly group; we can do that. Most want to be active and feel a sense of accomplishment, to be able to contribute; there are tasks to perform. Most people want to be praised and recognized when they do contribute; we can do that also. We also distribute a vast array of educational materials to members and nonmembers.

Sometimes we get concerned that our membership is composed of a large percentage of retirees. I feel this is a blessing. Retirees are a group of experienced people who know how to get things done. They now have the time and means to give something back to society. We are fortunate if they do this through the ARS.

Next time you are asked to volunteer for a project or just a simple task, say yes. It feels much better being an active part of the group, and think of all the friends you can make as you work alongside of them. I genuinely enjoy going to ARS meetings because I know many of my best friends will be there and that we will share happy times together.