“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke these profound words to an audience in Montgomery, Ala., back in 1957 — and they still ring true today. We all have the power to transform lives and the world around us. It begins with raising your hand to say “I can help.”
With National Volunteer Week (April 16-22) nearly upon us, it’s incumbent upon each of us to answer Dr. King’s question for ourselves. The week serves to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.
Founded in 1974, the holiday has grown each year, with countless volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week. Today more than ever, it’s clear that volunteering helps to create a more beautiful tomorrow.
The word volunteer comes from the Latin word voluntarius, meaning willing or of one’s own choice. This Latin verb originated from the Latin noun voluntas, meaning will or desire.
And that’s really what it comes down to — having the will or desire to help others, even in small ways.
We all live busy lives, and finding time to volunteer can be difficult. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous, both personally and to the broader community. Nobody loves a place as much as the people who live there. Volunteering offers vital help to worthwhile causes, and the community.
For example, how different would our local healthcare system be today without the strong foundation of volunteerism?
With a world war on the horizon, King City opened the area’s first full-fledged hospital in 1941, with 22 beds in a single-story building on Broadway Street. The community came together to create Southern Monterey County Memorial Hospital, laying the groundwork for what is now a modern Healthcare System.
In 1962, community fundraising for a more modern hospital culminated when rancher Tom Mee generously donated all the proceeds from a cattle sale, over $150,000. Our present hospital was built adjacent to that facility and, along with five comprehensive medical clinics, and a pediatric clinic soon to open, represents the core of MMHS in southern Monterey County.
Community support continues today, led by our Service League. As its name suggests, these volunteers truly serve others. The League’s mission is to “aid in community healthcare and support all MMHS medical facilities,” and this group of dedicated volunteers take that mission seriously.
Independent and nonprofit, the group provides vital services for the hospital. And even though our gift shop is no longer in operation, they continue to help strengthen employee morale by organizing employee acknowledgement events, holding scrubs sales and providing funds for needed equipment. Through the years fundraisers have provided revenue for facility improvements such as a mammography machine, dialysis equipment, fetal monitors, and furnishings for the hospital chapel.
If you have time to devote to this vibrant, group of volunteers who forward an important community-focused cause, call 831-385-7233.
The Mee Memorial Foundation is another arm of volunteerism that makes a difference by meeting direct needs of patients and staff. The nonprofit operates independently, with its own focus and goals, but its main purpose is to ensure that our community has access to quality healthcare now and into the future.
Like the Service League, the Foundation always needs volunteers, and there are many ways to get involved; overseeing donations, managing endowments and organizing capital campaigns, helping with special events and organizing fundraising activities.
The Foundation can be reached at 831-385-7233 or through email at [email protected].
Beyond our local hospital, there are countless volunteer opportunities in the community. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, sometimes the best approach is to just take a look around to determine needs. Serve at a food bank, aid your church, help out at your child’s school, tutor students, mentor a child, organize a summer reading program, donate books to the local library.
The list goes on and on. Chances are, you will see personal benefits immediately.
Studies show that giving to others can help protect the volunteer’s mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep them mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.
Beyond that, volunteering has such a profound impact on others. It allows us to connect with the community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals and organizations in need.
Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your comfort zone, and boost your social skills. It’s a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and exposes you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.
National Volunteer Week recognizes the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges. Only together can we hope to build stronger communities that help stitch together the fabric that binds the world.