Not only has volunteering helped me make a difference in the lives of young people but it also allowed me to move into the next chapter of my life.
After retiring from the education system earlier than expected, I found I needed a positive outlet. I needed to work with young people again in some capacity. Volunteering allowed me to do just that, although it wasn’t in the traditional capacity you might expect.
Selecting who to volunteer with wasn’t difficult. While working as an educator earlier in my career, several members from the Noon Exchange regularly served as mentors in my classroom.
The volunteers read to my children, listened to my children read and helped them with their math facts. They left a big impression on me and my students.
Later, when I needed to get out of the house, I wanted to work with these volunteers who cared as much about children and working with youth as I did. Little did I know that the volunteer assignments went far beyond the classroom walls and would be more enjoyable than I expected.
I volunteered in unique places such as Bell County Expo Center helping children paint Christmas ornaments with the “Christmas on the Farm” or outside Walmart with the STARZZ Basketball Team collecting food and money for My Brother’s food pantry.
And I had fun doing things I wouldn’t normally consider rewarding, such as painting curbs and pulling weeds at the Sunshine Home Apartments with the Crusaders Basketball Team on “Make a Difference Day” or walking 5K with teenagers in pouring rain while participating in the support of child abuse awareness. During the Feast of Sharing, my job was ensuring all volunteers signed in and I noted 17 of the 60 volunteers were from various Copperas Cove High School teen clubs.
Other times, I was a small part in a very large project such as manning a T-shirt table at the Quad Cities Ride for a Child motorcycle rally, knowing all the money raised goes toward prevention of child abuse.
One of my more rewarding tasks includes taking pictures and providing communications for the club. Each quarter, the board of directors works with the high school and selects deserving teens for awards based on scholastic achievement, leadership skills, community involvement and overcoming major hurdles.
I am tasked with the publicity, learning firsthand about all the exciting things our students are accomplishing. As I watch and learn about all these obstacles they are overcoming, I am continually amazed.
It is through this volunteering phase of my life that I find it is not so much the difference I am making in the life of a child but what a difference they are making in mine.
SUSAN AYERS is a community volunteer who lives in Copperas Cove.