The Professional Volunteer

I like to joke that I am a Professional Volunteer. There is a little truth in that though. For some reason, I am one of those people who likes to volunteer. People tell me I’m nuts for working for free. Maybe I am. I just like to help people. It does seem though, that sometimes, there are benefits to volunteering in addition to the personal satisfaction of knowing you helped someone out.

I think it all started back when I was at Century College (wow – that was 16 years ago). I’m not sure what order it happened in, but I ended up in Phi Theta Kappa as a Vice President of some sort. I couldn’t even tell you what we did anymore, but I know we had a lot of meetings, and talked about leadership. We even attended a couple of conferences on leadership. Somehow during that time, I also resurrected the school newspaper. I can’t say I did a good job of getting people interested in it, but we put out several issues. I was the editor, in fact, I did pretty much everything. I did manage to get together a small group of writers at least, that was helpful. We were at a 2-year college, with a bunch of kids just out of high school. Most people there just wanted to get their generals done, play cards in between classes, and didn’t care much about the school itself. That’s not an insult to the school or the students, just one of the realities of Community College. Anyway, while I also was one of those card-players, I also worked hard for both of those programs; mostly for free. I did end up earning a leadership stipend that helped pay for my books at one point, so it paid off somewhat. Mostly, it increased some skills I was working on developing (such as leadership skills, writing, editing, etc.).

Next on my volunteer resume came the nursery at church. I always loved little kids, so when I started attending Lord of Life Church, I jumped on the chance to work in the nursery! Soon, I became an employee. It was part time work, and was basically on my schedule. I was in charge of creating nursery schedules, recruiting volunteers, and also managing the on-call child care program we had for our small groups. I also assisted in training volunteers and staff, and started up a 2 year old Sunday School program. All that came out of a volunteer position. I learned a lot through my couple of years working there.

When my daughter started kindergarten, I wanted to help out as much as I could. I went on field trips as a chaperone, I volunteered at classroom parties, and I spent countless hours cutting things out for the teacher. I loved being there with my little girl. When my son went to kindergarten, my schedule was a lot more busy. I was not able to volunteer as often as I did for my daughter’s classes, but I did help with class parties, and a few activities.

Through my volunteering at the school, I was asked by my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher if I was interested in teaching Junior Achievement (JA). It was a once a week commitment for 6-8 weeks. To quote their website, “Junior Achievement teaches young children about money management and how business works.” The Junior Achievement program makes it very easy to be a volunteer! They gave me a kit, complete with all the materials, lesson plans, etc. All I had to do, was look it over before going in to the classroom, and try to stay within the time-frame the classroom teacher gave me. It was a lot of fun – for me and the kids. They were excited to see me every time. The next year, my daughter’s teacher looped up with her class, and asked me to teach  JA again. The kit was different for every grade level, so it was new material, but just as fun. The year my daughter went the 4th grade, her teacher already had a volunteer in place for JA. Her 3rd grade teacher asked me to come back and teach JA to his new group of students. That made three years volunteering to teach JA, and I would do it again. I’m not sure that our district in MN teaches JA. That is unfortunate.

My family is very involved in dance. Running a business like that seems like it would be very overwhelming. I wanted to help out the dance teacher/owner as much as I could, so I offered my time. I have cleaned studios, stapled packets, helped paint, and walked in parades at Lake Area Dance. I honestly would have done it all completely for free. The first time I was there cleaning, the studio owner told me that parents who volunteer, get credits on their child’s tuition. That was an added bonus!

The final volunteer position I’m going to write about today is with the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). I got involved with PASS originally as a tag along to their SQL Saturday events with my husband (@StrateSQL). At the time I first started going, we were dating, and it was just a fun way to go to a new city. I quickly became involved in the Community. There was something very special about this group of people, and I wanted to spend more time with them. At last year’s PASS Summit, I volunteered as both an Ambassador (directing traffic and greeting people), and at the booth sponsored by Dell. Dell was offering 5 minute massages by professional massage therapists, I got to manage the schedule. While I didn’t get to see my husband much, I did get to meet a ton of new people, see a lot of friends I only got to see a couple times a year, and do some great people watching! It really was a blast!

Nowadays, I volunteer at the PASS Community Zone, talking to SQL Saturday attendees about User Groups and the PASS Summit. I also have helped behind the scenes at last year’s SQL Saturday in MN, and am currently working on a couple more. I am also helping with the First Timers Program at this year’s Summit.

Why do I volunteer as much as I do? I do it because it’s fun. It’s also very rewarding to know I am helping people.

Here’s an article my husband recently read on volunteering. He had no idea I was writing this post, but the timing was perfect. This article gives a different perspective on how volunteering (especially while unemployed) can benefit you.


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