New year presents new opportunities to make a difference

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2002

The new year's possibilities stretch before us like a limitless sky. What will the year bring?

If you've experienced more than a couple of decades of new years, you know you hold the pen for writing the script of how the year unfolds. Good year, bad year? It's really up to you.

No, we can't control a lot of events -- volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or terrorist attacks, to name just a few. But we can control how we react to those events.

And we can choose to make a difference in those things in which we can exert some influence.

Take, for example, our community. What kind of place do you want the Kenai Peninsula to be? What kind of school do you want your child to attend? How can those in the community who need a helping hand be better helped? Is there something that can and should be done to improve opportunities for recreation and employment for young people in the community? How can the elderly who have no family support system be better helped?

Perhaps the most important question of all: What can you do to make life better in this place you call home? Just one thing.

Maybe it's helping at the informal breakfast program at your child's school; maybe it's lending a hand with one of the many nonprofit organizations geared to young people -- the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Young Marines; maybe it's turning an acquaintance with an elderly resident into a friendship or befriending a child who needs some extra attention; maybe it's answering the phone or performing some other task for a nonprofit group; maybe it's giving your time and talents to an organization's board of directors; maybe ... well, the list is limited only by your imagination.

This year, the Peninsula Clarion, with the help of several corporate sponsors, will put a special emphasis on volunteerism and its importance to the community. The year-long promotion -- "Reach out ... Volunteer!" -- has two purposes:

1. To recognize those individuals who are making a difference in our community through their unselfish acts of volunteering. Beginning Sunday, a volunteer will be recognized each week in an advertisement in the Clarion's Peninsula Life section.

2. To encourage others to give of their time to community organizations which need their help. During the year, volunteer opportunities will be highlighted in the Clarion.

Volunteers are the unsung heroes of our community. Instead of talking about doing something to make this a better place to live, they do something. They don't expect recognition for what they do, but they certainly deserve recognition and heartfelt appreciation for what they do. Nonprofit groups that have tried to put a value on the work of their volunteers come to one conclusion: They're priceless.

While you may be short on cash, volunteering provides an equal opportunity for everyone to support a worthwhile cause. You don't have to be wealthy to make a difference; you just have to give of yourself.

Looking for role models for your kids? Look no further than one of the many nonprofit groups on the peninsula that couldn't function without their volunteers. Volunteers know how to change the world; they know that change takes hard work and that it happens one kind act at a time. They've learned that there's more satisfaction in putting others before themselves than in operating with a "me-first" attitude. They teach by example.

So, if your list of new year's resolutions includes changing the world or even your little corner of it, you'll be particularly interested in our "Reach out ... Volunteer!" promotion. Our hope is, at the end of 2002, peninsula residents not only will have a new appreciation for the volunteers who make this a better place to live, but they also will have added their names to the list of unsung heroes who make a difference one good deed at a time.

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