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Old Englewood Village Association
home : features : old englewood village association
June 18, 2021

5/18/2021 3:25:00 PM

Todd Tracy, Secretary OEVA

Universally, people have a warm and fuzzy interpretation of what a community volunteer is and does, but have you ever considered the dark side of volunteers? Not them, but what they often endure?
Before we get started, let us try to define what a typical volunteer is. Wikipedia defines volunteering as “freely offer to do something.” But it also noted that volunteerism can be “say or suggest something without being asked,” which I routinely enjoy volunteering. But in this story, I am talking about the volunteers we see with the reflector vests on and those we do not see that manage our local organizations, serving the public faithfully behind the scenes.
Other internet sources offered more broad definitions, like “work for an organization without being paid, offer one’s services, present oneself, step forward, come forward, make oneself available, commit to a particular undertaking.” As you can see, we are all volunteers in one way or another.
Some of the better quotations about volunteering I found were: “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” – Albert Einstein. “The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.” – Carol Ryrie Brink. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson. As a shade lover, that one was my favorite.
Ok, that was fun, but it is time to get to the point. As a long-term community volunteer, I, like many others, have endured contrary opinions through my volunteerism. One of my punishable sins is that I cared enough to volunteer using both acts and words, which were at times perceived as imperfect, bossy or misguided. The Dalai Lama once said that “It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act,” which implies that if you care about anything, then there is a universal obligation to act, or at least help others act. That is the rub, acting in our modern culture is too often perceived as stepping on toes, not advancing ideas.  
The Old Englewood Village Association is just one of many non-profits in town that is full of volunteers who act. The list includes groups like the Elks, Rotary, the Moose, the Chamber, even the Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board (CRA). Our CRA has acting volunteers. But even those respected organizations, and all the other small moms and pops, still endured what I would consider an unnecessary level of criticism despite their well-intended, debated, and thoughtful actions.  
Have you ever wondered why people volunteer? Why do people expose themselves to more public scrutiny? If you post a social media message that you are saving the whales, five percent of the readers will scold you for not saving the penguins as well. If you pick up the park after an event, someone will find a beer can across the street and complain about your work. If you read books to kids, they better be rubber stamped by everyone. It seems no matter what you do, nor how well you behave, there will always be a critic of your ideas, opinion,
or work.
Wikipedia had an answer to why people volunteer. “Modern societies share a common value of people helping each other; not only do volunteer acts assist others, but they also benefit the volunteering individual on a personal level.” Other sites noted that volunteers benefit socially, politically, economically, spiritually, personally, etc., which is encouraging, but I believe that real volunteers are not looking for a reward of any kind, they are by nature giving people that we are blessed to have among us.     
Maybe our modern treatment of volunteers is because the nightly news has blurred the line between activism and volunteerism? Everyone is assumed to have an agenda these days, instead of a heart and soul.
In closing, my message to everyone would be that civility and manners are still important, and a contrary organizational, political, or social opinion does not justify gossiping or rudeness. So, the next time you have a beef with an organization or even a single volunteer member, first, thank them for their service to the community, then work together to find a solution.    
The Old Englewood Village Association hosts monthly Town Halls at The Open Studio, 380 Old Englewood Road, on the third Monday of each month at 3:30pm. Please join us when you can over the summer. Visit www.OldEnglewood.com to learn more, join or volunteer.

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