Only a Volunteer


I hate hearing that. There’s nobody more powerful than a volunteer. A volunteer with a passion will do things money just can’t buy.

A volunteer is not just a stand-in, a back-up, a second-rate, unpaid fill-in. Those are the ones who will walk away when the job gets tough. At best, a stand-by is only an almost-good-enough counterfeit. A real volunteer is none of those things.

Consider one of the most valiant regiments in the American Civil War. They fought in 23 terrible battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the entire war. This regiment suffered the greatest total loss of any infantry or cavalry regiment in the Union Army. They were the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, 100 percent volunteers.

Or consider these:

  • Angeline Jolie told her fans, “I will do the best I can with this life, to be of use.” She has personally embarked on humanitarian field missions as a volunteer, often in great danger herself, to help people in desperate conditions all around the world since 2001. Only a volunteer?
  • Mother Teresa, who had to ask permission at first to work among the poorest of the poor, once said, “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, and I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service was joy.” That’s the way real volunteers talk.
  • Then there’s Bono. Perhaps his greatest mark on the world is not his music but his international fight against poverty and disease. Only one of his many volunteer projects, RED, has raised $350 million in partnership with Bill Gates to fight the AIDS crisis worldwide. Only a volunteer could have done that.

This week the Jamestown Gazette’s contributing cover story writer, Sue Jones, brings your attention to another group of volunteers right here in Jamestown. Like Bono, these local volunteers have also partnered with Bill and Melinda Gates to eliminate another historically deadly disease. They have volunteered to save humanity from polio.

Polio once sickened 10,000 adults and children every week around the world, killing vast numbers and paralyzing many others. Through Rotary International’s cooperation with the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization – with the Rotary raising more than $1.7 billion to fight the disease since 1985, and committed to raising $150 million more over the next three years – polio has now nearly disappeared from planet Earth, with fewer than a dozen cases reported in all of the last year.

That’s the real, world-changing power of volunteers with a passion.

Jamestown’s Rotary has contributed more than $1 million to local charitable campaigns and community projects, and more than $500,000 to national and worldwide projects like END POLIO NOW, among others, that create a positive impact on the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Germany Kent, American television journalist, author, and philanthropist, said it most simply, “Immerse yourself in a cause you’re passionate about.” It’s the power of a volunteer.

The first successful colony in North America, the Virginia Colony, established almost 200 years before the United States itself, owes its earliest survival to the work of volunteers. John Smith, the English explorer and leader of the Virginia Colony in 1608, wrote about the outpost’s volunteers in his memoir. “Thirty or 40 of such voluntary gentlemen would do more in a day than 100 of the rest that must be press’d to it by compulsion.” Money can’t buy what volunteers can do.

So, this week, please help celebrate the Rotary’s 100th birthday in Jamestown. Adopt the motto that will continue serve them well for another century, “Service above self.”

And most important of all, never, ever again let yourself say, “…only a volunteer.” It’s like saying, “…only the most powerful force on Earth.”

Enjoy the read.
Walt Pickut