Tag: volunteer

Spreading joy abroad and at home

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This Maya Angelou quote is something I heard early in my career working with long-term care and memory care residents that continues to touch my heart. Many of my residents do not remember the activities or special programs that I provide to help enhance their quality of life, but they do remember how they made them feel: happy, joyful, reflective, peaceful, calm, etc. 

It was with that understanding in mind that I spent 2 1/2 weeks in September in Zambia, a country landlocked at the crossroads of central, southern, and east Africa. The trip was possible thanks in part to Diakon’s Love of Our Neighbor Fund. With its support, I benefited from five extra vacation days and a 10-day stipend. 

How to recruit volunteers (and then keep them)

We still need help Saturday in the concession stand …

The play is only two weeks away and we still need parents to sew costumes …

Our May Day committee needs a chairperson and you did such a great job the last two years …

The list can go on and on. On a weekly basis, our email inboxes, kids’ backpacks and Facebook newsfeeds are filled with multiple opportunities to volunteer.

These are great opportunities to make a difference … yet we receive so many that we typically can respond only to a few. That can make the task for finding and organizing volunteers overwhelming.

In fact, most people seem to fall into one of two types of categories—those who avoid any type of all volunteer activity and those who volunteer for everything. Unfortunately, members of that second group can eventually burn out and become part of the first group.

So why doesn’t everyone just do their part so the same people don’t burn out?

A common response when people are asked to volunteer is “I just don’t have time.” This may be true for a few people, but if you were to provide a flexible, organized and productive opportunity to volunteer, some of those people who say they are too busy might be willing to give you time within those specific parameters.

At the same time, it can be tiresome if you are part of the group that constantly volunteers for everything. In fact, I’ve found that situation can actually create an issue for some potential volunteers.

When the same people are always in charge and recruit their own friends or family first, the group can seem as if it’s a clique or otherwise be intimidating to those outside their circle.

So, when recruiting new volunteers, ask those you’ve contacted if they know someone who would like to join them. Determine what they enjoy doing and their availability and then try to match those characteristics with the position you need filled—before you ask your best friend to do it (who most likely would do it anyway!).


When I was asked to fill the role of vice-president of a booster club, I also was asked with whom I would like to do the job. I appreciated having that input because I would be spending a lot of time planning and executing plans with that person.

Some people don’t volunteer because of bad past experiences.

To be honest, if you ask me to volunteer and then rudely boss me and others around, chances are the next time I am asked to help with that activity, I’m going to pass.

Therefore, be sure if you are leading volunteers that you don’t make anyone feel like “just” a volunteer. Managing volunteers is not much different from supervising employees—be organized, respectful, flexible and a good communicator.

If you have to correct someone or hold him or her accountable, be sure your communication is kind and straightforward. Ask volunteers for feedback. Be thankful for their help because, let’s face it, without them you could not complete your objectives.

People also may avoid volunteering if they feel they are not really contributing. Have you ever signed up to help somewhere only to discover there were too many volunteers and you just stood around doing nothing while thinking of all the things you could be doing at home?

If you plan activities that require volunteers, be sure you have a position for everyone. Remember that the reason so many people volunteer is because they want to contribute to help a person, group or a cause. If there is no “job” for them to do, they will most likely feel their time was wasted.

Equally important is not to take advantage of those who do volunteer by asking them often to stay late. Consult with others involved in your activity to determine reasonable expectations. You may be the type of person who sets up, oversees and cleans up an entire event, but breaking that into shorter intervals for others who may not have the same availability or energy level will produce better results.

Sometimes “life” happens and regular volunteers just need a break for a variety of reasons. My family and I volunteer in our church nursery once a month but there are a few times throughout the year we travel on the weekends for club sports. I’m grateful that the nursery leaders understand and work with us by scheduling replacements without making us feel guilty! That flexibility keeps us fresh and we are able to give our best during the months we can be there.

Keep in mind people will invest their time, resources and best efforts in events and causes they believe are important.

When leading—or recruiting—volunteers, you can never go wrong using thoughtfulness, empathy and commitment to guide your requests.

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

Mission possible

My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.

Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.

This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.

This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.

After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.

I am not what you would call a “skilled worker” when it comes to any kind of home repair. I thought maybe I could stay behind to prepare meals or oversee teens doing some painting.


I was assigned to put a metal roof on a double-wide trailer for an older woman named Mary. My team did not actually include my daughters, but consisted of a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and several other teenagers. I didn’t know any of them before that week and none of us had ever done roofing.

We basically learned about roofing and one another as the week went on. And to make the situation even more challenging, Mary had a plumbing problem so her water had been shut off. We borrowed water from a neighbor’s hose as we needed it.

As the week progressed and temperatures rose, we became roofers. We shared lunches, tools, stories and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. We joked that we would start our own roofing company when we got back to Pennsylvania called Close Enough Roofing because as the day wore on, the measuring tape became a little more subjective.

We never got to meet our homeowner because even though we arrived between 6 and 6:30 each morning, she was already at work. She left her back door unlocked for us to go inside—where she had her window air conditioning units turned on full power for us. It felt like heaven when we stepped inside to take a break.


On our last day we had to request help from another group that had finished a different roofing project close by. Our roof was 80% covered in metal at that point and the heat index had risen to 104 by the afternoon. Moreover, we had reached a point on the roof where the final section required more-extensive repair than simply screwing on metal panels to the fascia boards we had installed. We needed someone with a little more roofing experience.

About 2 p.m., the other group showed up—and its leader happened also to be a professional roofer. It was like seeing the cavalry ride in! The group dropped off additional volunteers to stay with us and because leaders knew we had already put in a full day on a hot metal roof, they yelled up to our group, asking who wanted to leave.

Nobody left. The mission was too important.

We had become too invested in our team and that roof to abandon each other for the showers, dinner and air mattresses awaiting us at the air-conditioned church. We would work until dark if we needed to but we weren’t leaving until the roof was finished. Thankfully, about 10 hours after we had arrived, we pulled out of Mary’s driveway, having completed the project in time to be back for dinner.


We never did get to meet Mary, but I did get to meet her sister during our last night there. She was a member of the church that hosted us and she had added Mary’s name to the list of those in need of some much-needed home repair.

She hugged me and cried, telling me we were an answer to her prayers. I thought to myself, God is quite creative. He picked me, a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and some compassionate teenagers from Pennsylvania to answer the prayers of a dear older woman in South Carolina. And because of that strange, but perfectly orchestrated encounter, my life has been changed, too!

Many of the people our group helped that week could not understand why we would take a week to travel 10 hours to help their community. I couldn’t help but wonder why wouldn’t we do it?

We certainly gained as much as we gave that week: Fresh perspectives, friendships and a better understanding of God’s faithfulness.

I can’t wait to return next year.

By Melissa Kindall
Social Media and Special Communications Project Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

Seniors sharing compassion and creating connections

Even in retirement many people remain active in their communities, especially as volunteers. Our Diakon Senior Living Services campuses are home to many of these caring individuals. Two Twining Village residents offer their experiences on why they share their time and talents with others in need of compassion and connection…

I really had no background or training in volunteering when I came to Twining Village in May 2014, but I’ve been glad to be able to serve. I actually started as soon as I got here.

I visit the residents who have Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related illnesses and say the Rosary and the Our Father with them. But I don’t just say it and leave; I stay until I make contact. I touch their arms or look into their eyes. They may not be able to talk, but I’m sure many of them appreciate knowing they have someone there just for them.

Volunteer helps a “Buddy”

One of some 230 meals on wheels volunteers with Diakon Community Services, Michelle Eshelman enjoys helping people. Sometimes, that help takes a different turn …making her a new “Buddy” in the process…. She writes about the experience:

The first time I delivered meals to “Buddy’s” owner, I could not help but notice Buddy. He barked from the time I pulled in until the time I left. This continued for the next three or four deliveries. Every time I made a delivery, I would talk to him, but he just barked.

Why not volunteer?

Why volunteer? Why not? A meals on wheels volunteer, Barbara Carduff, shares her reasoning:

“I work at Schuylkill Medical Center South and a coworker of mine volunteers for Meals on Wheels and said they were in need of someone in Shenandoah[, Pennsylvania,] for Wednesdays. My daughter, who is a nursing student, was off from classes that day so we thought, why not?