Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 29, 2014

Volunteerism -- in countless arenas -- helps everyone


The Andover Townsman

---- — Everywhere you look in Andover, it seems like someone is volunteering for something.

Out in the woods, Boy Scouts are working with members of the Andover Village Improvement Society to cut new trails, build bridges over wetlands or put up signs and information kiosks.

Dog-lovers are clearing land and raising money for a new dog park.

Members of the Andona Society — an all-volunteer organization — have been putting on Clown Town for 62 years to raise money for youth programs and activities, and they did so again this year.

Little League coaches are molding future baseball stars.

Sixty people showed up to help unload cars for a recent recycling event at Brickstone Square. That alone made the event a success.

And the list goes on and on.

Occasionally, the volunteers are recognized, as with the Rotary Club’s May 8 “Citizens Who Care” celebration at the Wyndham Hotel.

But usually, they toil in obscurity, gaining nothing more than a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that only service to others can bring.

Former President George H.W. Bush once said: “The government is here to serve, but it cannot replace individual service. ... Ours should be a nation characterized by conspicuous compassion — generosity that is overflowing and abundant.”

It was under Bush’s leadership in 1990 that the Points of Light Foundation was created to help spur volunteerism across the country.

President Bill Clinton continued that theme with the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993, “a national service program that engages Americans in voluntary action to address the country’s most critical issues,” according to pointsoflight.org.

But then came the attacks of 9/11 followed by an economic downturn that seemed to put volunteerism on the back burner.

And while volunteerism continues to be at an all-time low nationally, there is one good sign: Millennials, or those in their 20s and 30s, think volunteering is important. One study noted that 75 percent of them had donated to charity, while 63 percent had donated their time to a cause they believe is important.

Locally, there are many opportunities for volunteerism — whether you are a Millennial, a member of Gen-X, a baby-boomer or one of the Greatest Generation. Somewhere, there is a place for you to volunteer and help out your fellow man, or woman.

A great place to start is the town’s website for a list of openings on various boards and commissions, ranging from the Ballardvale Historic District Commission and the Cable Advisory Committee to the Council on Aging and the town’s Scholarship Committee.

But there are many nonprofits in town that would welcome and appreciate the volunteer efforts of its citizens. The Andona Society, in fact, put the call out recently for volunteers, as the organization is at its lowest membership level in years. Without them, Clown Town may cease to exist.

Or, you may want to start your own volunteer organization. With Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media available, there is no reason someone with a good idea can’t become the “next great thing” when it comes to volunteering. All you need to have is an idea, a little generosity and the passion to make the world a better place.