By Amanda Ponzar
This week, an estimated 1,000 volunteers gathered on the National Mall in DC to stuff 50,000 back packs with 150,000 books for kids so they have something to read during the summer. That’s more than 200 backpacks per minute!
Did you know low-income kids fall behind during summer break (it’s called “summer reading loss”)? Many kids aren't reading on grade level and that contributes to dropouts -- how can you learn if you can't read? Check out the report "America speaks out on Education" for all kinds of great info. So, there I was, scissors in hand, opening boxes of books to keep the volunteers stocked and moving. I have scissor stabs, broken nails and bandages to prove it.
Volunteering was part of growing up in my family, whether regular stops at the soup kitchen or annual mission trips with the church youth group (and these weren’t cushy trips to exotic places/foreign countries). We painted in the hot sun for 8+ hours a day. We hammered nails and built houses. We sweat. And as a teen, I worked for two summers as a camp counselor (a 24/7 job) and for three summers at a retreat center, waitressing, cleaning and working with kids (technically volunteer because our weekly stipend started at $30). I was not making big money, but I was making an impact and learned the value of giving back.
Volunteering is a great way to give –- give your unique talents, your time, your energy, your love to help someone else. Skilled volunteerism (offering your business skills like graphic design or accounting) is important, but so is manual labor. If you sit in an office all day in front of a computer, it’s incredibly rewarding to get up, get out there and get your hands dirty doing something. Whether stuffing book bags or sweeping floors, you’re sweating for someone else.
So grab your kids, coworkers and neighbors. If you need ideas, take the pledge to become one of the million new volunteer readers, tutors and mentors United Way is recruiting, visit Volunteer Solutions, Volunteer Match or another organization to find local opportunities, or ask your church or school. Everyone can do something, and we need everyone to get it all done.
(Photos (c) United Way Worldwide)