Area volunteers earn recognition


Posted: Friday, April 16, 2004

On Thursday, First Lady Nancy Murkowski recognized the efforts of 13 of the state's finest volunteers including James "Monty" Montgomery of Kenai. "A North Slope worker, Jim dedicates his regular two weeks of R and R to helping others," according to information about the awards program. Mr. Montgomery's story is scheduled for Monday's Peninsula Clarion.

On Sunday, USA Weekend Magazine, which is included with the Peninsula Clarion, will highlight volunteers from across the nation, with the Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners of Cooper Landing earning a mention.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Chapter of the America Red Cross will present its "Real Hero Awards." Among those being honored are Richard and Mary Warrington of Kenai, who have spent years trying to raise awareness of brain injuries and help others to prevent them. Their story is featured in today's Peninsula Clarion.

These Kenai Peninsula residents share some common characteristics with volunteers all over the world: They don't just talk about making the world a better place, they do something to make it better. They think about others' needs, not just their own. They inspire by their actions. They may not be able to change the world, but they work to change their corner of it.

Take for example the Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners. For the 2003 Make A Difference Day, the group assembled 1,000 gift bags vehicle litter bags which include a large trash bag, a twist tie, pair of rubber gloves, a travel size container of hand sanitizer, litter information, a coupon book from Cooper Landing businesses and a map of the area. The packages will be given to the first 1,000 visitors to the community's museum starting in May.

The packages are a reminder that we all need to help keep Alaska's pristine places clean. Or, as the group notes: "After spending the summer working with a senior-youth litter patrol and picking up 13,950 pounds of trash along the highway, we decided we need help cleaning up and wanted to encourage public awareness of the effects of littering."

The Warringtons have used their personal experiences with brain injuries to raise awareness of one of the most common serious injuries in the United States. They

likely will never know how many injuries they have

prevented because of their education efforts, but that doesn't keep them from working tirelessly to reduce the brain injuries, most of which are avoidable.

These Kenai Peninsula residents are among the 44 percent of the American population who volunteer their time. While the individuals and organizations they help know that volunteers are priceless, the total dollar value of volunteer time for 2003 in the United States has been estimated at $266.4 billion. According to one survey, the volunteer work force represents the equivalent of more than 9 million full-time employees. Those numbers give some perspective to volunteers' enormous economic contribution to their communities.

Organizations or individuals who are feeling the pinch of not-so-good economic times and could use a helping hand might find a valuable lesson in what the Independent Sector calls the "importance of the ask." Independent Sector is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 national organizations whose mission is "to promote, strengthen and advance the nonprofit and philanthropic community to foster private initiative for the public good."

It reports that being asked personally to give money and time continue to be the most effective way to recruit donors and volunteers. One volunteer recruiter puts it this way: "You need to give people the opportunity to say yes."

The Warringtons, Mr. Montgomery and the Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners are examples of people who say "yes" to needs in our communities. We thank them and the thousands of other volunteers on the peninsula for all they do.

If you are among those who don't volunteer, we encourage you to not wait to be asked. There are scores of nonprofit organizations and people in need who could benefit from your unique talents and resources.

Don't be shy. You have lots to offer. But if you're looking for ideas, don't miss Sunday's USA Weekend Magazine. It will inspire you to make a difference right where you are.

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