Heroes and Volunteers

By Nick Adams

Nick Adams

Heroes and volunteers share some common characteristics. They're both givers and they both know that deeds, not words, define who we are. They don't advertise; they go quietly about the business of making the community around them a better place.

There is clear evidence that heroes/volunteers are all around us every day. And there is overwhelming evidence that we need more of them. You don't need to run into a burning building or put your life at risk. Just extend a hand, your experience, your knowledge and a small part of your time.

For an example of volunteerism, I asked two long time OLLI members and volunteers, Nanci and Bill Youngblood, about their experiences. Both have devoted many hours not only to OLLI, but to The Edwards Street Fellowship Center. Edwards Street is known for its broad outreach to those who need help. I was astounded when they told me that one in five Mississippians is “food insecure,” meaning that food is not a given for many. Over a thousand Pine Belt families rely on Edwards Street food outreach on a monthly basis.

Ann McCullen, executive director, points out that they also provide medical screening, a pharmacy program, tutoring for students and much more. “Volunteers are crucial,“ she points out. “Without fail, volunteers tell us they receive much more than they give whenever they are serving others. Whether someone stops by once a year or once a week to share their time and energy, we hope they will leave feeling refreshed with a renewed sense of love and compassion for their neighbors. Around here we say, 'Volunteers rock.' ”

There are facts to back up McCullen's statement that “volunteers tell us they receive much more than they give whenever they are serving others.“ Dozens of studies show that volunteers overall are healthier physically and mentally. Volunteers average a five-year longer mortality rate in their age group, lower depression rates and feel more engaged and purposeful.

You've heard time and again that OLLI is a member-led organization directed by a small professional staff. Committee volunteers are the engines that keep our favorite programs running.

Participate. Be a hero. Be a volunteer.

Don't Say that Word

By Dallas Gorbett

I know that word. It makes me feel bad.

Sure, I could . . . and should. But, but . . . what if I don't like it? If I say I'll do it, I've made a commitment, and I'm roped into it. I don't like being in situations with people I don't know.

VYet, you blithely throw the “V” word around like it's no big deal.

“Come on, we need volunteers. You'll feel so rewarded when you volunteer. Volunteerism is the best way to say thanks.”

I know, I know. There's kids—and adults—that need to be taught to read and write. There's food banks that need food collected. There are hospitals that need someone to sit with a lonely patient, to deliver flowers, or to help a patient eat. Save the dolphins, save the trees, save the zoo, save the air, save the water. The list, and it's a worthy list, just goes on and on.

Yes, I'm retired and have some free time (less than I expected when I first retired). Okay, I've got skills and experience from a lifetime. I know—being around other people, socializing, is proven to improve mental health and maybe physical health. I've got a car and I could deliver meals to shut-ins.

This sounds like a flimsy excuse, and maybe it is, but I don't know how. Sure, the easy answer is to google “volunteering in southern Mississippi,” and get a list of opportunities. Or, the next time I'm driving past a hospital or school or charity, all I've got to do is stop and ask what I can do.

That's an easy answer but a surprisingly hard thing to do. So . . . maybe I could talk to a friend I've heard mention helping out at Edwards Street, or the hospital, or Red Cross, or church day care. I could ask to go along and set a date to actually do it. I would just be trying it out, not making a long-term commitment. They'd understand. They were ME before they started volunteering.

There, I said the word and it didn't hurt at all.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention OLLI's committees need volunteers.

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Did You Enjoy Your Class or Seminar?

We Want You . . . to write an article for the next edition of OLLI Expressions telling your friends what was so much fun about the experience.

You don't have to be a "great" writer or even have a lot of experience. (We just happen to have a university nearby and have members who are grammarians. They fix glaring errors, and you come out looking even smarter.) Seriously, we are interested in what you have to say about OLLI classes, seminars and field trips. It will be edited to meet Southern Miss's grammatical standards and rules. And, if you can snap pictures (camera or phone) showing the event, that's even better.

When you sign up for the next session, think about sharing the experience with other OLLI members. We'll start gathering articles for the next edition in early spring of 2017—we are planning on sending reminders to you then. For more information ask Maryann Herodes or send an email to OLLI@usm.edu with "Olli Expressions" in the subject line.