United in Service

This Saturday I took part in one of the largest volunteer events that I have seen.  Bringing together almost 10,000 volunteers, Unite America in Service created the opportunity for people to serve in Washington, D.C. on our National Day of Service in a big way.  I’m used to events with 10, 20, or maybe even 100 volunteers present, but the sheer number of volunteers made this day a whole new experience with service for me.

Over the course of the day, I had a chance to see what kinds of groups came out.  There were youth groups, college students, service fraternities and sororities, political leaders, and lots and lots of AmeriCorps members!  AmeriCorps members from all branches were there serving in force; I spoke to one member who said that he and a friend had arrived by car just that afternoon all the way from Tallahassee, Florida.  And everywhere I looked, there were men and women sporting the National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) shirt, hard at work.   Even former members of AmeriCorps were out in strength; over a hundred AmeriCorps Alums from D.C. and Baltimore contributed their time that day.

Packing up the finished care packages.

Together, we packed 100,000 care packages and wrote reams of personal thank you letters  to be sent to members of the armed forces, disabled veterans, and first responders through Operation Gratitude.  It was amazing to see at the end of the day the result of our efforts filling a semi-truck.

What this undertaking made me think about that day was the strength of people’s desire to serve their community.  I had thought that convincing a few dozen volunteers to come and give their time as volunteers sounded like a challenge, but this project demonstrated that there must be several thousand people in this area who were just waiting for an opportunity to volunteer.

One of the key goals our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators have is getting potential volunteers engaged and passionate.  You might have a cause that people like, but getting them to give their time and effort to it, to endorse it to others and to commit themselves to it’s success, can be a major hurdle.   But if this past Saturday showed me anything, it’s that people really care and want to get involved – they might just be waiting for you to show them the right opportunity.

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