If Not You, Then Who?

The importance of and need for increased volunteerism and community service

One thing I’ve often wondered about is the state of volunteerism and philanthropy in our communities.

Why don’t more of our residents volunteer and financially support local nonprofits and community-based organizations? 

Let’s be clear. I’m well aware that there are many examples of volunteerism and philanthropy taking place every day, including the work we do in our churches. Others of us participate in civic organizations, like the Brownstoners of Bedford Stuyvesant, Jack and Jill, along with Lions Clubs and other fraternal organizations. 

The Brownstoners is one my personal favorites. This all volunteer-run organization clocks in an uncountable and unimaginable number of hours on a myriad of events and campaigns. Many of the members are retired educators and professionals, while others find time to volunteer while also caring for their families and holding down demanding day jobs. 

It always amazes me when I recount what they do and have done. They orchestrate the annual Brownstoners tour, lead educational campaigns to promote literacy, hand out information to parents on open school nights and conduct outreach events to prevent tax liens. Also, the Bed-Stuy Alive kick-off was made possible because of the sweat equity of volunteers, the lion share of whom were members of the Brownstoners.

Also, it’s important to instill the value of service and giving early.  I’ve been inspired to see that our educational system is increasingly valuing volunteerism, with community service now a requirement in many schools to graduate. Recently, Restoration was the beneficiary of community service hours as Boys and Girls High students came out to lend a helping hand at three of our recent events: the 10K Run, Restoration Rocks and the reception for Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the new executive director of the Schomburg Center

Another example is Restoration’s team running in the New York City Marathon. Our team of nine people – most of whom didn’t know each other before the race and only half of whom actually live in the community – are taking on the ultimate brass ring fitness challenge while supporting an organization they care deeply about. To date, they have raised more than $29,000.

Even with all of these wonderful examples, more volunteerism is sorely needed.

Sadly, it sometimes feels as thought it is always the same people coming out and the same volunteer organizations doing the work.  New and young talent needs to be groomed to pass the torch on from our seniors and from others who are looking to just put the baton down. And at the same time, we cannot lose momentum: Even more hands and dollars are needed to fuel the work that needs to be done. 

There is no doubt in my mind that people care about their community and have opinions about what should be done.  Rest assured, whatever you care about—whether safety, education or health – there is an organization or effort in the community that can badly use your help.

If you need help identifying just the right organization, please contact me, and we can have you participate in one of the working groups that formed from the Transformational Leadership Summit.

It’s your community. Get involved.     

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Leon BreathofFreshair Dawson November 06, 2011 at 07:29 PM
where do I sign Up
C. Zawadi Morris November 06, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Hi Leon! Great! I've added a link in the article where you can email BSRC and ask about volunteer programs.
Leon BreathofFreshair Dawson November 06, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Hi Zawadi, I see it now that Im off my phone for some reason I it wasn't allowing me to see it strange but Thank You.
Melissa Danielle November 11, 2011 at 05:20 AM
In most cases, people don't volunteer or donate simply because THEY ARE NOT ASKED.


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