by Rosanne Graef, Past President – WENA
Today’s Topic: Why Get Involved?
We want to feel that our lives have meaning, and we can find that through volunteering. Volunteering enables us to establish strong ties to our community, which, in turn, helps us feel empowered and in control of our lives.
Everyone has the right to volunteer and to be an important part of the community. You may think that you have little to offer, but you’d be wrong—you can make a difference to someone, every person counts!
I asked several active West End volunteers to share their reflections on why they volunteer and here’s what they had to say.
Wells Lyons: I volunteer in a few different capacities. I volunteered to help save Congress Square Park, and I serve on the board of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. I also do pro-bono legal work with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project. To me, all of these efforts are having the positive effect of making our city and state a better, fairer, place to live.
Volunteering can present challenges. Generally, the pay is rotten, and not every volunteer effort will turn out the way you’d like, but pairing your skills with community needs will solve pressing problems, and is the surest way to create change that matters.
Leana Good-Simpson: I volunteer because it brings me pleasure to give someone else something they cannot give themselves. My life has been blessed and, in an effort to be thankful for those blessings, I try to pass them on in the form of service to others, giving joy where there may be sadness, hope where there is darkness and relief from suffering. I try to let people know that they are loved and that there are those out there who truly care about their well-being.
Anytime you can make a difference in someone’s circumstances, you have volunteered—from a simple hello, a hug, a smile, helping in the home, gardening, shopping or just sitting for awhile and listening.
Karen Perry: I have many God-given gifts to share. I love creativity (art, photography & crafts), gardening, cooking and being around nature. I wish to share my passions & knowledge. I also want to learn from other people and volunteering offers me that opportunity. A year ago I moved into the city of Portland, and by volunteering I expand my friendships.
I have aphasia from a stroke I experienced, volunteering gives me an opportunity to define it. I also have a brain injury, trouble walking due to lack of balance, therefore I am disabled (hopefully temporarily), as of now I use a walker or a cane on the sidewalks. I find that I am accepted in this city where there are plenty of opportunities available.
I serve on the Portland Disability Advisory Council where we want to reach out for more interested members to volunteer. In my opinion Congress Square Park is also a great place to volunteer for activities.
I have always volunteered because I did not have money, but I had talent to share. I make sure that my philosophy matches where I want to volunteer and the people it will affect.
Penny Stevens: When we retired I knew I wanted to use my experience and abilities for the good of the community, but I also wanted a social aspect to my volunteer time. My husband, Dick, who has a science background, volunteers with Friends of Casco Bay to sample and analyze the water quality. He also manages several websites for organizations he belongs to. These are mostly solitary activities, but he gets satisfaction from using his skills.
We’ve both volunteered for political candidates and issues we support. In these times of extraordinarily expensive election campaigns we can help beyond our small contributions with time and effort. When our cause is defeated we always say, “Well we helped and did our best.” When our side wins, we say, “We were a part of that victory.”
Phil Thompson* is an inspiration to me as a volunteer. He keeps up with what is going on and gets involved. More of us should learn from his example.
*For those of you who don’t know Phil, he’s a legend in his own time. WENA celebrated Phil Thompson Day in 2013 to honor his many years of active involvement in the West End.
How about you? What are you doing in the community? If you’re looking for a chance to get involved, come to a West End Neighborhood Association meeting and get ideas of where you can participate. Comments or ideas? Please contact