April marks a month of celebrations. These include National Poetry Month, National One Cent Day, National Sourdough Bread Day (I April Fools’ Day kid you not!) and, nearest and dearest to my heart, National Volunteer Appreciation Month.
There are many definitions and meanings for volunteer, including as a way to categorize the plants that grow spontaneously in gardens. It conjures up pictures of eager seedlings who won’t be held back and raise their slender green stems to contribute to the good of the garden around them. The same can be applied to association members who have grown through the benefits provided by their member organization and long to give back and nurture others—thus contributing to other professionals, or the member garden, around them.
Imagine a world where seeds of goodwill are transported through the air, stopping, taking hold, and growing with abandon. In its purest sense, that’s what volunteering does. You share your knowledge, your time, your skills, to help someone else grow. Others see this and realize they have something to contribute as well. The garden expands.
There is no limit to volunteering. It doesn’t stop when you take a new career path or retire. You may change direction, but you always have something to contribute. The prime example I can offer is that of my father. My dad turned 91 in January. After having lost my mom a few months shy of their 72nd wedding anniversary, he decided that sitting at home was no longer an option. Instead, he started volunteering at the facility where my mother spent her last few months. My dad visited my mom every single day. He made connections with the nurses as well as the patients. And now he’s going back to bring conversation and a smile to brighten the days of people who perhaps aren’t as lucky to have someone visit them every day. We’re not talking professional development here but rather human kindness. Giving people your time in whatever capacity that improves someone else’s day-to-day life. I could hear the smile in my dad’s voice over the phone as he recounted to me his first day of volunteering. He is definitely getting back as much as he gives.
But, back to the garden. Spring is finally here. As we emerge from the cold winter, and hopefully the worst of the pandemic can be put behind us, we can start to grow and reach out into the world again. The pandemic left many of us focusing internally to weather a situation that none of us had experienced before. Through this all, NACE members continued to work to balance their time to include volunteering as part of their goals.
Throughout the past few years NACE members have continued to raise their hands to volunteer in numerous ways, including contributing to committees and task forces, participating in one or more of the 17 NACE Affinity Groups, submitting nominees for awards, and writing articles for the NACE Journal and Member Voices. There are numerous ways to volunteer with NACE. What you do matters to our members, the profession, and the students we serve. For that, we can’t thank you enough. Not only in April, but throughout the year, please know that what you do makes a difference, and you are very much appreciated. As always—we couldn’t do it without you!! Kudos volunteers!!
Cecelia Nader is senior executive and volunteer administrator for NACE.