By Jean Gordon
Coming off a long, hot and busy summer — (Sept. 22 is the first official day of Fall) it’s time to take a deep breath, embrace cooler temperatures, enjoy fall colors and hopefully find time to take on new adventures.
Have you given much thought to becoming a volunteer, if you aren’t already?
I hear it everywhere I go these days. There aren’t enough volunteers in most every nonprofit organization; churches, schools, youth sports organizations, animal shelters, Senior Center, libraries and in all avenues of life.
Volunteer fire departments for years have been begging for new, young and excited firefighters to make our communities safe. Many of our senior firefighters just can’t fight fires like they once did. They have told us that.
Rutherford County can’t survive without a host of volunteers in all facets of life.
There is a tremendous need for volunteers of all ages, especially the younger generations.
We saw hundreds of young people come into Rutherford County from other parts of the country during the summer. Some traveled 15 hours on a church van from Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Vermont to volunteer.
The youth are back home now, but the tasks remain. We witnessed our own youth travel to other areas of the country to work while some stayed in Rutherford County and did mission projects here at home.
Without our volunteers, schools, camps, food pantries, thrift stores, fire departments, civic clubs, churches and other nonprofits wouldn’t be functioning today.
I always wanted my mama to be a Grade Mother back in the day. I envied my friends’ moms who came to Mrs. Mary Hutchins’ first grade class at Shiloh to give us parties. Our parents worked full-time day jobs and they couldn’t help during the day.
But they spent long hours at the volunteer fire department and ladies auxiliary in our community in the evenings and on weekends.
Our students are in need of tutors and mentors.
A few years ago I was a Lunch Buddy to a little girl at one of the elementary schools. This child didn’t need help academically — she just needed to know someone cared about her. She needed to know she was special. She had a tough life at home.
When the Covid pandemic began in 2020, I knew I was not created to stay at home so I began to research the food pantries where I could help.
I began to volunteer at the Washburn Outreach Community Center in Bostic in March 2022. It gave me purpose during a time when we couldn’t be together and most everything was shut down. All volunteers wore masks and gloves, and washed our hands a lot — but we helped hundreds of families every week. We are still doing that today. It gets in your heart.
Maybe helping to pack or organize food is what you could do.
Check out Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach and find your place.
That’s what is so wonderful. There are volunteer jobs for everyone, everywhere that fit exactly what you enjoy.
Is reading a part of your life? Start a Little Library or volunteer at Mountains Branch or other libraries in the county.
If outside work and the beauty of flowers strikes an inner cord, talk to the folks at the Flowering Bridge.
A small town or village or even the largest city in America can’t run well without the sacrifice of time from volunteers.
Rutherford Housing Partnership (RHP) and Habitat for Humanity are always looking for volunteers. Whether repairing rotted floors or broken fixtures in a home; raking leaves or trimming shrubbery for seniors, there is a place for you.
The Lake Lure Olympiad 2022 is history but had it not been for volunteers throughout the area, it would not have been possible.
Neither would a host of other fun events. There would be no events at POPS in Forest City, no car shows, no concerts, no sprints or races.
I attended An Evening of Mozart back in June — again not possible had it not been for the volunteers willing to spend time taking up tickets, setting up the auditorium and then cleaning up.
The elderly in our lives — those who live alone or those in assisted living areas – dream of a visitor. Maybe that is your call.
A few years ago now my mama visited the neighborhood rest home every Tuesday, spending time with the residents who had no visitors. Even at Christmas she solicited help from her Sunday School friends to throw a party for those who had no family or visitors. Every person got a gift. She never told many people about her ministry, including me. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Remember the days of chili cook-offs and Bingo at the Chimney Rock Fire Department. Volunteers made that possible. Dedicated men and women gave their time to make that event some of the best of times. I can still see the late Ackie Okypch calling the Bingo numbers and the late Joe Carter working to make it a success. Not to mention all those cooks making desserts and chili for the community.
I know it’s a different time and fundraising events change, but the needs never go away.
Volunteering is life changing and from my personal experience, it makes every day just a little sweeter.
Jean Gordon spent nearly 50 years as reporter/editor at the Rutherford County News and The Daily Courier. Contact her via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org