By Ruth Ferris
Young volunteers make a difference. This article will look at three very different ways that young volunteers have made a difference in the work of Eatonville Family Agency. At the same time, we will celebrate the agency giving young people experience with volunteering, with encountering people different from themselves, and with using their talents in new ways. While their gifts enrich the community, they have the opportunity to gain experience which will help them in finding their way in a challenging world and in a challenging economy. When it works well, it is a win-win experience for all involved.
One volunteer, Lucas Leonard, is the young man we featured in an earlier article. For his Eagle Scout badge, he chose the Eatonville Community Center as his project. Years of community activities had left it looking down at the heels. Lucas and his Boy Scouts Troop 604 decided to give it a fresh face. The center now greets those who enter its doors with fresh paint, new lighting, and new carpeting.
In the process, Lucas gained experience in motivating and organizing the members of his troop, inspiring them to turn up on a Saturday and to spend what would have been their day off working hard. He also gained experience in fund-raising. The funds he raised paid for the lift needed to paint the upper reaches of the building, and they paid for the materials used in his project – light fixtures, carpeting, paint.
These experiences will showcase his talents, motivation and creativity when he applies for college or for a job. Work at the community center gave him and his friends an opportunity to use their talents in a new way. It also gave his friends the opportunity to learn how to work together effectively and to support each other in a positive lifestyle. One of his friends commented that he valued the experience because it gave them an opportunity to support each other in positive activities and to support each other in practicing the teachings of their faith.
Besides giving students the opportunity to add to their resumes, the experience gave them a practical way that their beliefs could be translated into action. Their work made a difference in the community. The community center, where community members meet for many activities and where the vulnerable come when they need assistance, now looks fresh and welcoming.
The second volunteer example is five girls from a local church group. They went with the Eatonville Family Agency director to the yards of community members who had trees filled with more fruit than they were going to be able to use. The girls volunteered to pick the fruit and to give the tree owners the fruit they wanted, and they asked if they could take extra fruit back to the food bank. The girls not only brought back much-needed fresh fruit for the food bank, they lifted the hearts of those whose lives they touched, from the fruit tree owners to the director of the agency.
While the agency benefitted from their hard work, enthusiastically given, the girls learned that they were able to turn what would have been a wasted resource into one that served those in need, and that by working together, they could accomplish much.
The third volunteer is Jessica Moore. She is a young professional with a husband, two children and a challenging career at Northwest Trek. She was recruited for the Eatonville Family Agency board by past president Nancy Ellis, whose late husband was the Northwest Trek director. Nancy saw in Jessica professional talents that would benefit the board. In an interview, Jessica said that being raised in a small town where members made a practice of caring for each other, she learned to value being part of a community.
She and her husband combine their smalltown experience with their faith to include doing things that benefit the most vulnerable in the community. While this takes valuable time from Jessica, who takes family and career challenges seriously, she feels that her children are learning by her example that caring for those around them is important.
The gifts she brings to the board are her experience with organizing volunteers at Northwest Trek, and her knowledge of the way young people communicate. Many boards of charities have older members who are effective in many ways but who still rely on old ways of communicating information. While this works for those in their age group, it does not effectively reach those who are younger who have talents and resources that their communities need. If this article were on a web site, you could be sending it to Eatonville friends with the touch of your keyboard. We would be enlarging the circle of those who care about the vulnerable in their hometown and enlarging the circle of those who have talents they wish to share, like Jessica, the five girls and Lucas.
“O brave new world, That has such people in’t.” (‘The Tempest’)
Ruth Ferris is a member of the Eatonville Family Agency board.