Wednesday, April 22, 2009

National Volunteer Week

Three years ago, I was a nervous volunteer. Not sure about how to interact with patients and their families, I spent most of my time answering the phones, organizing cabinets, and doing other things that the staff asked of me. Now, my time is spent visiting with patients and their families, providing them with reading materials and/or food and beverages, or taking care of things that they need help with. I also have the opportunity to train new volunteers and help with various other projects the Volunteers Services people ask me to do.

April 19-25, 2009 marks the nation's National Volunteer Week and the month of April is National Volunteer Month. This week dates back to 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. President has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. Additionally, governors, mayors and other elected officials make public statements and sign proclamations in support of National Volunteer Week.

As one of 250 volunteers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, I have the opportunity to work with patients and their families. I initially began volunteering so I could be distracted from a life-changing situation that had occurred just a few months before. Now, my own life is different.

The Burn Center, where I volunteer, is the only unit that provides medical services for both children and adults. People oftentimes wonder how I can "stand being up there" with people who are in such physical pain. The truth is that outside of two people, everyone else has an attitude of gratitude - they are grateful to have their lives back. Spending time with these individuals helped me to put things in perspective and to see that life's challenges are so minimal when it comes down to living and dying. What once seemed to be such large issues soon became very trivial things that had no significant bearing on my overall enjoyment of life.

Today, I was part of a 400-person banquet for the Mary Catherin Strobel Award at the Cool Springs Marriott. Volunteers who had been nominated by their respective organizations for the Mary Catherine Strobel Award were honored today at that banquet. I was very humbled and grateful to have received the award for Vanderbilt's Volunteer of the Year and the nomination for the Mary Catherine Strobel Award award from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Thank you, Burn Center and Volunteer Services, for exceptional experiences with exceptional people.

Are you contributing your time and efforts to positively affect other lives? For more information about volunteering at Vanderbilt, CLICK THIS LINK. And for more information about area-wide opportunities, check out HANDS ON NASHVILLE. You can't possibly go wrong.

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