During a presentation I attended this past Spring, I heard someone say volunteer driving programs are a fairly new concept in the aging field. I was surprised by this comment since nothing could be further from the truth. In our Volunteer Driver Program TurnKey Kit, Helen Kerschner explains that the first known volunteer transportation service was organized in 1905 when volunteers used sleighs and wagons to take older adults to the train depot and church.
Volunteering has been around, well, forever. The low awareness of volunteer driving programs, and in fact most volunteer services, may be because volunteers are altruistic and don’t necessarily seek recognition for their generous acts of kindness.
People choose to give of their time and talents for a variety of different reasons, but most studies show that the majority of us volunteer simply because we want to help others. Volunteerism is about neighbor helping neighbor. In essence, this is the Golden Rule—the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. This maxim is found in most religions and cultures around the world and is fundamental to Shepherd’s Center values.
Volunteers are not just the hands, the head, and the heart of a Shepherd’s Center,
they ARE a Shepherd’s Center. They are the embodiment and expression of caring for our neighbors. Shepherd’s Centers go further in peeling back the layers of volunteerism for older adults. It’s often assumed that the most important need of people in their later years is to be independent. Many of us across the Shepherd’s Center Network, including me, talk about how our volunteer services are geared towards maintaining and supporting a person’s independence. But our founder, Elbert Cole, talked of a need greater than independence. And that need is to be needed.
For those who have retired, volunteer service provides many of the benefits previously derived from work. It provides opportunities to learn new skills. It structures time and relationships. It brings people into companionship with others. It strengthens one’s sense of identity and self-esteem. It gives meaning and purpose to living.
So as we celebrate the tens of thousands of incredible volunteers across the Shepherd’s Centers Network, and carry on the simple acts of kindness of helping our neighbors, we want to say THANK YOU to all the volunteers who make our communities, and our world, a better place.