In the recent months, I've noticed a change that truly is quite frightening: the death of volunteerism.
Webster defines volunteer as "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service." Service has been, and will continue to be, one of the foundations of this country.
Whether volunteers are raising money for cancer research, constructing homes for those in poverty or providing free after-school services - service will always be an integral part of our nation.
Williamsport and the greater Lycoming region is no exception to this model of community service organizations - we even have community service organizations that were created to help other community service organizations.
One of the easiest sources for volunteers is the local college students.
Whether they're required to do service hours for a fraternity or sorority, a class, or just because they're truly an altruistic person, college students almost always are willing to lend a hand.
Recently, I've seen many community service organizations struggling not just financially, which can be expected with the current fiscal crisis, but they've also been struggling to find volunteers. This is the part I have a hard time comprehending.
Seeing that there is so much need for these organizations I can't help but wonder about the people that aren't getting the support they need because these organizations are struggling.
So I've decided to try and figure out what happened to all of these volunteers and I think I've been able to put my finger on it.
Most often when one volunteers, they'll show up, get a short introduction and then stand around waiting for an assignment, they'll probably finish that task and then stand around some more, take a long lunch break, maybe work a little more and then head home. This is where the first problem lies.
When people volunteer, they want to be maximized to their fullest potential. Granted a short introduction is probably almost necessary and in some instances a safety briefing is required, but as soon as those are over people want to get to work.
Volunteer organizations should have all the supplies out and ready to go, whatever they may be.
The second comment would be regarding long lunches. No one takes an hour and fifteen minutes to eat lunch.
Worse, even after these long breaks it still takes another fifteen minutes to start working. By then, you've got half an hour until you start cleaning up for the day. The last comment about utilizing college students is that we operate on a different schedule, especially on weekends. Asking for volunteers to start working before most college students even think of waking up isn't realistic and is going to cut down on the students that are willing to volunteer.
Volunteers also like to see progress in the work they're doing, so make sure there's enough work to keep them occupied throughout the day and be realistic when you're planning.
If you only have three hours of work, let the volunteers know that before they sign-up to volunteer a whole day. As silly as it sounds, when it comes to volunteering, people want a full day's work.
Students and others are always willing to volunteer and lend a hand and usually a simple and genuine thank you will suffice. But sometimes a little reward is nice, maybe after 15 hours of volunteering you can get a water bottle and maybe if you do 30 hours you can get a T-shirt. While this shouldn't be an incentive to go volunteer, it is certainly a nice way to show appreciation.
If I could I would like to offer an example of just how dedicated many college students are. While most students spend their spring break at home visiting with old friends and spending time with their families and others choose elaborate vacation destinations a small group of students travels across the country to volunteer.
Every spring, the Lycoming College chapter of Habitat for Humanity sends students literally across the country to volunteer for their spring break and often times students are contributing several hundred dollars to go on these trips. The chapter is celebrating its 20th year of Collegiate Challenge spring break trips and 24 students and five advisers have just returned from Taos, N.M.
Looking at these students, I see hope, because as long as I know there are people out there in this world that are willing to sacrifice so much, I know that at some point in our future we're not going to need community service organizations to support others.
Lay is a criminal justice major at Lycoming College. He is a resident of Colts Neck, N.J.