Why I Volunteer
By Bill Stern
Reflecting on my life these past 75 years, I’ve often wondered why I get so much enjoyment volunteering. I suppose it began in my youth, watching my parents’ involvement in their volunteer activities: PTA at my elementary school, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, service clubs, politics. They were involved in life-long learning, and they wanted to make a contribution to help others. How could I not pick up on that? I was very fortunate to have had them as role models and I wanted to emulate them. One of my first volunteer experiences after becoming an Eagle Scout was to help younger scouts with their advancement. I was also involved with politics in college, volunteering in many local, state, and national elections. My first employer after college encouraged civic activities. It was a great way to volunteer, make new friends, and gain future customers in the process. I joined a service club and then Junior Achievement. Later on, after our children were born, I joined the YMCA and became involved in fund-raising, served on their board of directors, and enjoyed meeting and working with a variety of people.
As retirement years approached, I really wanted to find something to do, to give back. I had always been a semi-handy man, doing my own home repairs and helping our kids with their house projects, etc., so I Googled ‘’volunteer opportunities” in our Minneapolis, Minnesota community. I made appointments to see what they did, and whether I could fit my experience with their needs. I have now completed 10 years volunteering with Bridging, the largest used furniture bank in the U.S. Three half-days a week, I work in the electric shop inspecting, cleaning, and fixing donated small electrical appliances: TVs, microwaves, lamps, mixers, etc. The families we serve have lost everything. We provide furniture and everything they need to set up housekeeping. The best part of my involvement is fulfilling a much needed service to desperate people in transition. But it’s also fun, I’ve made great new friends—and there’s free coffee!
Our permanent home is Minneapolis and our whole family is there. However, we are fortunate to be able to spend half the year in California. We’ve been coming to Huntington Beach for the past 8 years, enjoying all HB has to offer. My wife and I love it here. We each have separate activities, but together we bike, hike, go bird watching, etc. I love the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and when the Amigos de Bolsa Chica presented their short film on the decades-long effort to save the wetland at the Central Library in early 2016, I was hooked. I wanted to be involved, to help and to share their story of the history and restoration of this wonderful wetland. I became a Docent, leading Wetland tours, and this past winter I’ve joined the Amigos Board of Directors. I also volunteer with the Amigos FLOW program, as a citizen scientist, learning about phytoplankton, microscopy, water quality of the tidal inlet, and helping with the hundreds of school kids who are learning about saving the wetlands for future generations. It all goes back to life-long learning, being involved, making a small contribution to our environment, meeting new people and making friends, and having fun in the process.
I urge everyone to get involved and use your free time to help others through volunteering.