As we look in the dictionary, we find that the word “volunteer” is a noun meaning a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. After speaking with many volunteers, I find that word means “rewarding.” It means an opportunity to serve others, usually disabled, the elderly, or to the serve the community you live in.

For a non-profit organization, it is priceless; a lot of their services would not be possible without the assistance of volunteers. The world is not a perfect place and many people, animals, places and communities need help. Professionals try to meet the needs of everyone, but it is impossible without these valuable volunteers.

We volunteer to make a difference. The world can sometimes be a cruel and sad place; together, we can make it better, healthier and happier.

If assisting others is not reason enough for you to be become a volunteer, you need to realize it is not only good for others, it is good for you! You can make new friends, gain new and important skills, make connections to lead you to a new or better job, build confidence and self-esteem; you can see more of the world and your community. You can feel that you are needed; it relieves stress and boredom of yourself and others, but most of all, you feel that you have been a part of something.

When asking co-workers what volunteering means to them, I came up with the list of: educating, love, teaching experience, useful, eager, caring, giving, generous, beneficial, humanitarian, free-hearted, and they had fond memories of helping others themselves or of being helped by someone, friendship locally and abroad, but most of all, it is a service that is very needed in our communities.

It looks like being a volunteer gives as much to you as it does to others. That, my friend, is the secret of volunteering!

People who become volunteers usually lead richer, happier and more satisfying lives than those who don’t volunteer. Some organizations cannot go on without their volunteers.

If you would like to become a volunteer in the Oak Hill area, contact the SALS Historic Oak Hill School.  Contact Vickie Smith at 304-640-3792 or Barb Painter at 304-673-6370, or in the Beards Fork area, contact 304-779-2772. You can also reach John David at 304-465-9732 to volunteer in either area. The volunteers of the Southern Appalachian Labor School are greatly appreciated and needed. We have worked with Global Volunteers, Boy Scouts, church groups, Appalachia Service Project and many other groups this year and the area has been greatly benefited by all groups.

If you have been a volunteer for SALS, please accept our greatest gratitude. If you have not been a volunteer with us, please consider it. I guarantee that the experience will be as rewarding for you as it will be for us.

(Painter is with the Southern Appalachian Labor School.)

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