On Wednesday, a few work colleagues and myself were treated to a free lunch. We hadn’t done anything grand. We hadn’t invented any super fantastic fangdangle whatchamacallit techno thing. We weren’t being recognised singularly for anything in particular. All we had done was volunteer to help an organisation and they gave us lunch.
Well, it’s not totally true that we hadn’t done anything. But I wouldn’t say that we deserved it either. However, the organisation thinks that all their volunteers and supporters deserve to be recognised anyway. So, once a year, they put on a lunch to do just that.
The organisation is called Lifeline South Coast. They are a 24 hour 7 days a week crisis help line. They operate a number of Opportunity Shops (second hand clothing), and run the Lifeline Book Fairs which help to raise thousands of much needed funds to help keep the crisis help line operational.
Hundreds of people call Lifeline weekly. A lot of them are suicidal. Sometimes, Lifeline is all they have to talk to, thus literally, Lifeline is their life line.
Every year, Lifeline runs 3 huge book fairs – March, June and October. Phenomenonal volumes of books are donated all year round and sold cheap at the fairs. Thousands of people come from all over to find a bargain. And believe me, there are plenty to be found! From children’s books and adult fiction, to gardening, true stories, and everything in between, there is something for everyone.
I first became aware of these book fairs about 4 years ago. The company I work for put together a fund which was aimed at encouraging workplace giving and inform people of volunteering opportunities. The company offers one paid day each year per employee to volunteer at any organisation they desire, but it wasn’t being utilised by the majority of employees. The fund chose 2 charities to start it up. They were the Smith Family and Lifeline.
From there, I have volunteered at the book fairs every year. I am in my element! I love books, writing, stationery and everything associated with it. At first, I was only doing one day at the fairs. Now I’ve been helping with all 3 days the book fair runs for. It’s pretty full on to do all 3, and I am totally buggered by the end of it, but I feel so invigorated for having done it.
The best part of volunteering is the feeling that I am contributing to something which has true power to change lives. Emotionally, I am on a high. The sense of accomplishment, and being part of something meaningful are uplifting. Knowing that I am helping an organisation to keep a crucial service running is the number one reason I volunteer.
There are many charities and other organisations which need volunteers. Without volunteers, many services would not be available. Without volunteers, many people would not get the help they need.
At the Lifeline lunch, it became very clear that it wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for the volunteers at Lifeline. From running the shops to manning the phones, none of it would be operating without the volunteers offering their time to help. Lifeline also wouldn’t be able to offer training for such things as the phone counselling if it weren’t for the support of businesses.
People were recognised for their service to Lifeline. One lady was recognised for her 25 years of volunteering! That’s just incredible. Wow!
So, let me re-evaluate my opening comment that we hadn’t done anything grand to be offered a free lunch. It really isn’t true. Volunteering is indeed a grand thing to do. You do it out of the generosity of your heart. You give up your spare time to help someone do something for themselves or someone else. You do it for no monetary exchange. And you do it because it is something you believe in and have a passion about. That’s pretty extraordinary in my book.
I once knew someone to whom it was suggested they volunteer their time in order to gain experience in something they really wanted to do but couldn’t break into. Their response? They didn’t want to give someone free labour! Let’s just hope that one day they aren’t in a position where they need to access a service run by volunteers.
If you volunteer your time to a cause close to your heart, thank you. You truly are an amazing person!