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Spread a Little Sunshine: Volunteer

It was a rhythm, a cadence that played over and over in my head even in my sleep during the third week in March.

…plastic first, face down, pin up, close hatch, push button, watch compression, pop!…

And now you have a 2 and 3/4” shiny button.

If the machine didn’t eat it. Randomly.

One button takes about three minutes to make if you’re flying in your zone.

Two buttons per child, 800 children plus staff, maybe there’s someone helping write each person’s name on the backs and organizing them into classroom groups…you figure about infinity number of hours volunteered so that these kiddos can remember the composer and artist of this year’s Fine Arts Festival.

The buttons were colored by the kids, assembled by moi and became collector’s items.

Well, I still have mine.

They remind me that I was part of making magic when I volunteered at my children’s elementary school.

I really encourage you to think about volunteering some time this year. Anywhere.

During my 15 year hiatus, I dabbled in a variety of areas and also trained incoming parent volunteers. The most important thing they needed to know was how to pace themselves.

If your first round of helping with crafts in the kindergarten room left you feeling dazed and frazzled, you may be happier helping the school librarian sort her shelves or making phone calls to organize some awesome assemblies.

If you jump into the fun new thing and burn out in two months, we’ll never see you again; so some years I gave more and some years I gave less. You just do what you can where you are.

So only say “yes” to what small thing at a time feels doable. Saying “no” is completely acceptable and will give you the confidence to stay long enough to find your niche.

Once you are happy here, you won’t want to leave.

Even when your last kid graduates.

Where to begin and how to choose, you ask? There are so many places and people who could use an extra pair of hands.

You know you if are in the right place if it brings you joy.

If you come home from an hour of walking dogs at the Humane Society, are you refreshed and exhilarated or are you tired and a wee bit resentful of your time?

Perhaps you’d enjoy filling boxes at the local food bank or staffing a holiday soup kitchen. You could clean up litter on the beach or help your neighbor cut her grass.

Larger projects include getting involved with Habitat for Humanity or Hospice or the foster care system. You could mentor teens in crisis, visit the elderly, or provide job training for vets.

When disaster strikes, you can fill sandbags or hand out clean water or plant a tree.

Where ever you decide to begin, remember to take it slowly and keep your eyes open. Usually one opportunity leads to many others.

I myself was happy to cover a school in chalk drawings and glittered opera masks. We played Mozart and danced the Bunny Hop and planted gardens and in general turned the place upside down.

Just begin somewhere.

Make the world a better place, one small act of kindness at a time.

The place will never be the same, because you showed up.

To honor your favorite charity or volunteer spot, please advertise it in the comment box below. Tell us all where the good things are happening and let’s boost awareness of the variety of opportunities world-wide to lend a helping hand.

Published inLiving Larger


  1. Pat Tunnell

    When I retired six years ago I decided to volunteer at the local grade school helping pack food for the students who needed food over the weekend. One day the principal asked me if I would be willing to help a special needs teacher in her classroom. I said I will give it a try and see how it works out. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my now 72 years. I worked one on one or in small groups with seven children, all with special emotional needs. The children grades ranged from kindergarten to third grade. We worked on reading, writing and math skills. I believe every child has a gift and if we take the time to discover their gift we can help them develop that gift or talent. At the end of each school year the children made cards to thank me for helping. I have keep their cards and yesterday when I was sorting out my keepsakes I looked at those special cards and remembered the children who touch my heart and changed my life through the experience of volunteering.

  2. Lynette Lange

    My Fine Arts Festival buttons still hang on the wall behind my desk. You started a tradition that has continued, thanks to the excellent foundation you established. Thank you, Jolie, for all that you did for the students who spent time in the classrooms of Orange Glen Elementary.

  3. Barb Abel

    while my children were small, I volunteered in each child’s classroom….:) When I began to spend more time at the school than at home….my husband decided I needed to go back into teaching, which I did….now I volunteer in the school library, helping with scanning books in and out, putting books back on the shelf…helping with book fairs and most of all being that extra person who tries to be in spots where children need to know they are being watched…I love doing this and will try and d it as long as I can drive! 🙂

  4. Kiki

    Orange Glen has so many visual remembrances of all of your amazing work. Every time I walk by the tiles in the 5th grade wing or drive by the mural I am reminded of all of the hard work you did for us. When I take the kids out to dance or play the classical music in our music program I think of you. We are so thankful for everything you did for us-way above and beyond. We still have our Fine Arts Festival every spring thanks to your hard work. From one recipient of all of your volunteer efforts, thank you. You rock!

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