Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business. She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.
Volunteering can change your life and the lives of others. The Leadership Development Academy class learned all about that from our panel of experts, then were able to put what they learned into practice. In the morning we met at IronTek in Beloit. During the afternoon, participants divided up into teams and worked on mini-projects at non-profits in Beloit.
Have you ever been listening so intently to someone that you forgot to do something? I forgot to take the panel’s photo. Yes, I did, so I’ll just have to tell you about it and show you a photo of a cute puppy available for adoption from one of our panel member’s non-profit. I think you will be able to figure out which one it is from.
Our panel was moderated by Jennifer Johns from Mercyhealth, and included Donna Ambrose from Caritas, Michelle Matthys from First National Bank, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, Sandy Johnson from CASA of Rock County and Jill Ayres from Mercy Hospital. They are all passionate and love volunteers. They find their volunteers from word of mouth, social gatherings, social media, and hopefully from this blog.
Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville has more than 81,000 volunteer hours recorded each year, the equivalent of more than 39 full time staff members. Jill Ayres stressed the importance of choosing where you would like to volunteer based on your passion. She said volunteers are her customers, so she makes sure to thank them every day, keep them busy and make time for them, so they feel important.
Sandy Johnson, who started as a volunteer for CASA, and is now the director, has walked the walk, so now she can talk the talk to the LDA class. She makes sure to choose the right volunteers to serve at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Rock County. Not everyone is cut out for the job. They have to be committed, reliable and be willing to stay for as long as the child needs them. Most of the children, who are served at CASA, are under age five and are great kids. They need someone who will stick with them, because the last thing they need is another person to walk out of their lives.
Volunteering has to be positive and have an element of fun, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, told the participants. You can’t place restrictions on volunteers. Let them discover their passion. A young person may come in the door thinking they want to walk dogs, then participate in a surgery and find they want to go to school to be a vet tech. Don’t limit them. Brett said some of the best volunteers go to organizations with opportunities or ideas they have for them. Sometimes the ideas help shape the organization’s future.
Find something you are passionate about. Boards don’t need bodies, they need working bodies. When you are at events, you had better be representing boards you are sitting on. Great advice from Michelle Matthys from First National Bank. She enjoys networking and has become friends with those she is on boards with. As humans, we are selfish and volunteering makes you humble, she told the class. Don’t volunteer for personal gain. If you have an agenda, don’t volunteer. If you are looking to help others and give back, volunteering is for you.
Donna Ambrose, from Caritas, has learned a lot of skills from volunteers and volunteering, such as human resource skills. People need to find their niche or professional skill set and give time to organizations that fit them. Donna has been seeing an increase in volunteers, especially from high schools and first responders. She likes feedback from volunteers, because if she doesn’t know something is wrong, she can’t fix it. Flexibility and people who understand their mission are her best volunteers.
All of our panel had heartwarming stories to tell about their volunteers. They said they could go on and on. Volunteering changes people and organizations. Most non-profits could not do the great work they do without them. Volunteer and change the community you live in!
Erin Loveland shared the benefits of volunteering. She has been with House of Mercy for years and has a heart for the homeless and for volunteers. Many of us don’t think about most volunteer opportunities being in informal settings, such as shoveling for your neighbor or making dinner for someone who is sick. People who volunteer have an increased sense of well being and mental health. You can learn job skills and network. Many community services would have to decrease without volunteer labor and Erin is grateful for those who volunteer.
Speeches were on the agenda for those who couldn’t share at the last session. Most chose to share Rock County’s great assets. Teachers and school leaders, as well as the wonderful parks and businesses in our communities came up. Families are admired. We all have so much to be thankful for in the area we live in. Look around you and pay attention, then thank others who make Rock County a better place to be.
Dan Cunningham, from Forward Janesville, is very passionate about politics and government. It shows. Dan encouraged the participants to contact their legislators and local officials. He said government is everywhere and we can make a big difference by getting involved locally. A group from Rock County recently took a trip to Washington DC, and Dan, who used to work there, said it feels “normal”. Government is not built to change quickly and it takes time to see results. Government is everywhere in our lives, so get involved and make a difference, he told the class.
The Greater Beloit Chamber hosted us at Irontek and provided a taco bar for lunch. They always treat us so well and we appreciate their hospitality! If you have not been to the business incubator to visit, be sure to stop by soon.
Irontek was a great place for the class to take group and team photos. The space is bright, airy and interesting. Megan O’Leary Photography does a fantastic job for us each year. Come back next month to see the photos.
In the afternoon, the class was able to put their volunteer skills into practice. Four non-profits in Beloit needed help, so the class pitched in to make a difference in their community.
One of the teams worked at the Stateline Boys & Girls Club. The weather was beautiful, so they started in an outside garage area, then moved into organizing their art classroom and inside storage areas. They filled two dumpsters and really made a difference for them.
Another team helped out at the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center. They worked on painting their main bathroom and a wall in their living room. It looked fresh and clean when they were finished.
Community Action was looking for help in their Community Garden, as well as doing some odd jobs at one of the houses they are working on in the Merrill neighborhood. I was impressed with the amount of work they had done by the time I got there.
Caritas needed help unloading their Second Harvest Food Bank Truck. Once unloaded, the team helped inside with sorting, labeling and many other jobs that needed to be done. It was fun to watch everyone so eager to tackle each job with gusto.
Another great day at the Leadership Development Academy session, making a difference in our communities by giving back and volunteering. Nonprofits always need help, so find one that fits your skill set and get started today!