Sara Keller: You can help our western Nevada County community
When I was a teenager, a family friend, who was a member of the local Soroptimist Club, took her kids every Christmas morning to a retirement home to visit with elderly folks to bring them good cheer for the holidays.
I remember thinking, “How ghastly.” What a terrible way to spend a Christmas morning as a kid.
One year she asked if I would like to join them, and I squirmed as I delivered my declination. I’ve always felt badly about that.
I’ve always been a bit of an introvert. I am shy, and often feel awkward around people I don’t know. Small talk for me is a mild form of torture. As I grew older, I had various jobs, including customer service, sales, management, and eventually teaching. My communication skills grew tremendously. As I was finishing my teaching credentials and was on the hunt for work, I found myself with extra time on my hands.
Having worked since I was 14, I felt rather restless. I decided I should use my time to volunteer.
But where? The thought of volunteering with, and helping people I didn’t know, seemed daunting and rather intimidating. I thought that if I couldn’t bring discussion and cheer for those I am hoping to help, there would be no point in it. I knew I had some skills to offer, after all, I’ve had numerous types of jobs and worked at various companies in the community. I just needed to find my fit.
One of my lifelong passions has been working with dogs. I had, over several years, spent time learning about dog behavior, training, and rehabilitation. I also had several dogs of my own that allowed my to apply this learning in the real world. I decided to volunteer at Sammie’s Friends. What an amazing experience. I worked under a very inspiring mentor who worked with me and taught me how to help rehabilitate dogs that were in danger of not being adopted and possibly even euthanized. This experience opened my eyes to the reality that I could get involved, and I could make a difference.
My son was born a short time later and as I was making my way in the world as a new mom, I realized that I needed more support. I pursued and discovered other new moms in the same boat and we began a mom’s group that met each week. The support of this mini community for me was invaluable. When my son began school, I went back to work part time and I was able to volunteer in the classroom. It felt so good to be able to be involved in his school and to contribute a few hours of my time here and there. I have continued to find ways to volunteer time through the years.
Now, a few decades later, and after having a family, I’ve realized how incredibly fortunate I am to live in and belong to such an amazing community. It has occurred to me that not only was my volunteer time hopefully helpful to individuals and businesses around me, but that the amount of support and the personal connections that I experienced as a result of my time as a volunteer, was more valuable to me than I was able to foresee as young person. I cringe to think of how self-absorbed I was back then, but I am determined to make up for that now.
Each of us has our own set of skills and abilities. Many of us don’t have much time on our hands, which makes many things difficult to balance, but if you apply your skills for maybe just an hour or two a week to volunteer in your community, it will be tremendously rewarding for both the community and your well-being. You are an asset to this community.
Your time and attention are a valuable benefit … how can you can help?
Sara Keller lives in Nevada City.
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