The Saratoga Sun -

By Liz Wood 

Volunteering is only the first step

 


I grew up in a family of volunteers. My mom and dad volunteered for different clubs, depending on what my siblings and I were involved in during our school years. It wasn’t easy, because my siblings and I were all in different schools at one time or another.

My grandma was always volunteering for Easter Seals, working with children with disabilities. When I was a young girl I would stay for a week during the summer time and go with her.

Watching members of my family volunteer made an impression on me and, as a result, I began to volunteer.

Volunteers fill needs in the community. Without them, there would not be a school board, a parent teacher organization, a water and sewer board or a planning commission.

As volunteers, we find something we are passionate about and commit our time, energy and knowledge to serve in these organizations and on these boards.

Despite our passion, volunteering for a board does not mean you are an expert.

It takes months, and sometimes more, to learn all the ins and outs of a board, not to mention all the rules, by-laws, ordinances, etc.

Being a volunteer is not easy. You are publicly questioned, criticized and seldom thanked.

I remember someone telling me “I wouldn’t serve on the school board if you paid me a million dollars.” I was serving on the Carbon County School District No. 1 board at the time.

It takes dedicated people to volunteer. They give up a lot of time to volunteer, time that could be spent with their family or doing something they love.

One thing that people don’t spend a lot of time doing is learning how to be effective volunteers. Very few boards offer board training. You are handed a book of rules and regulations and expected to fumble your way through it.

I remember the first board meeting I went to. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I didn’t even know what Robert’s Rules of Order were or how to read an agenda.

Attending a large high school, I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities to serve on committees that would have taught me how to be an effective member of a board.

It has taken me years to learn to be effective on boards, and I am still learning.

One of the advantages of working at the Saratoga Sun is that I get to learn more about boards by watching and learning what makes them either efficient or inefficient.

I get to watch as people interact. I also watch as people who are new to the board, or new to the position on the board, struggle to find their voice.

It’s not easy to listen to arguments from different sides, then make a decision. Sometimes all the facts are not presented, many times you are just trying appease the people you represent.

We don’t all agree. That is human nature. We all have a different way of interpreting a problem and finding a solution. We also have different ways of presenting problems from our point of view.

And that is a good thing, I think. People need to respect each other’s opinion and take time to listen to what the other has to say. On the other side, we need to say what we think without being condescending or rude. That is something that I am still working on myself.

This Valley is very fortunate to have a large group of people who care enough about their communities to volunteer.

Whether you agree with a person or not, take the time to thank them for volunteering and taking time away from their families to serve their community.

 

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