I’m an idealist. A true optimist through and through. I have difficulty seeing the worst in others. I believe in the power of perseverance. I believe justice will prevail.
This optimism doesn’t mean that I’m naïve. I know nonprofits can’t solve all the world’s problems, and not all nonprofits actually move the needle. Like any other business, there are successes and there are failures. There is honesty and there is dishonesty. There are good years and there are rough patches.
Most nonprofits thrive due to active participation of volunteers, including board members, who have passion for the mission. Volunteers are the ultimate idealists. They contribute to the world through small actions. It might be saving the environment using metal straws or reusable shopping bags; feeding the hungry by stocking pantry shelves or delivering a meal; caring for older adults by driving to a medical appointment or raking leaves in the fall. It doesn’t have to be big or grand to matter.
But changing the world isn’t done by any one person even if your name is Gandhi or Rosa Parks. It’s done by individual actions, every day, on all sorts of projects, big and small. Moreover, you don’t always know the ultimate results of your efforts. I don’t believe that Elbert Cole and the initial exploratory committee he formed imagined their ideas would grow into a unified network. They believed passionately in a vision and worked to make it a reality.
When we come together through the Shepherd’s Centers Network to support older adults to live healthier, happier, and more connected lives, the people we serve and our individual agencies benefit. Our combined efforts result in better programs, better education, better practices, better awareness—all of which help us reach more older adults so that they can thrive in the community.
I’m an absolute idealist about the spirit of volunteerism. I’m even more idealistic about the power of our network and volunteers to change the world. Maybe in a world with so much hatred filling the news, a pair of rose-colored glasses and a heart full of good intentions aren’t the worst things. Because of your commitment and that of volunteers across the network, I have no doubt we are contributing to the world and making a difference.