“Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” — Albert Einstein
In fact, many things that you cannot count or measure are the most important things in our lives and in our community. How do you measure love, or compassion, dedication, simple caring … the list is endless and yet so important to the well-being in each and every life.
It could be any one or many of the things we just listed that inspire people to give their time, their money, their expertise. They can give of themselves to an organization, a cause, a need that needs to be answered. It is that generosity of a fellow human being who cares that truly makes a difference … a difference in the lives of other people, a difference in organizations, and in a community.
Just think of the hundreds of people in our community who serve on different boards; not-for-profit organizations, churches, school boards and PTAs. Each of those men and women volunteering brings a value to that organization that money cannot buy. I can truly speak to this; this Chamber of Commerce has 32 board members, each with full-time, demanding and stressful jobs, families and other interests. And yet, they care enough about this Chamber and this community to be at every board, every committee meeting, every activity … and they each bring to this chamber a different area of expertise that is priceless.
I read an online article the other day that was talking about volunteering in America. The article estimated a dollar value of volunteer time is $21.36 per hour. That estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents and energy to making a difference. Charitable organizations use this estimate to quantify the enormous value volunteers provide. According to one estimate from the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63.4 million Americans — nearly 27 percent of the adult population — contribute a collective 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $169 billion a year.
The value of volunteering is much deeper, much more fulfilling and much more important in contributing to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure.
Volunteering is rich and diverse, not just about organizing large events. It is thousands of volunteers giving aid in minor league sports, shelters for the homeless, holding hands in a hospice or cleaning up a local streambed. It is spontaneous acts of kindness like helping neighbors shovel their walks, coming to the aid of a stranded motorist or helping an elderly person cross a busy street. These large (even when small) acts, given freely, are what bind communities together. Volunteering is helping, not hiring. Giving, not taking Contributing, not counting.
People volunteer for an endless variety of reasons. Many just want to give back to their community, help a friend, serve as a mentor, or promote a worthwhile activity. We as a community need to find ways of thanking and recognizing these dedicated caring people.
Now I know what you are thinking … “That is not why they do it.” I totally understand, but I was taught to always be appreciative.
Our area is blessed with hundreds of generous people who truly make a difference in hundreds of ways every day. I would like to mention three women that I personally know and admire for many reasons.
On Sept. 15, 1969, Pat Konzen began volunteering at St. Elizabeth Hospital, and 47 years later she is still there. She has broken all types of records with more than 25,800 hours of time volunteered. She has worked in the Public Relations Department, Social Work Department, OB, and now works with the Senior Circle Program. Pat was the founder the Ostomy Support group at Gateway Regional Medical Center and she established the baby cap program (where each baby receives a hand-knitted cap). She also makes a Memorial Book for each stillborn child. She now volunteers two days a week, keeping the Senior Circle records organized, mailing out all of the new memberships and renewals, plus sends out all of the birthday cards to physicians, employees, volunteers and Senior Circle members. Pat is a two-time cancer survivor. She not only hopes this information gives encouragement to anyone with cancer, but helps promote early detection.
Joyce Tracy retired after 33 years as kindergarten teacher in the Granite City School District, and her friend, Dianna Briner, recently retired as the CFO at Children’s Hope International, an international adoption and humanitarian aid agency. They like to refer to themselves as “partners in crime,” and WOW, what crimes.
These two ladies have made some truly drastic changes in their church, Good Samaritan House and they are now starting a new project.
A committee at their church, Nameoki United Methodist felt the church needed a little sprucing up. Over the next year, Dianna and Joyce not only spruced up but coordinated numerous projects including recovering the pews, restoring the stain glass windows, and renovating the Education Wing, basement stage and parsonage. They are currently working with the Boy Scouts on building a meditation garden. While Joyce was serving as the president of the board of the Good Samaritan House and Dianna served as the treasurer, they decided to take their renovation experience to the Good Samaritan House. This organization provides short-term shelter, support and life skills training to women with children, as well as continued financial and educational support through their transitional program. The renovation allowed expansion for a Client Business Center, Dining Room, Family Supply Center, beautiful new office space, plus additional onsite classes and training spaces. I ran into these two ladies a couple of times during the renovations and they would share with me their fabulous (cheap) finds. They searched and bargained and cleaned and painted and did whatever was needed to reach their goal. And what a beautiful job they have done.
Joyce Tracy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. These two ladies have now decided they are going to start a new event in this area. Joyce’s question to me was, “Have you always wanted to run in one of the most memorable races ever? Now is your chance to change lives forever, without even breaking a sweat or taking a step.” They will be hosting a “Zero Mile Fun Race” to benefit Parkinson’s on Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Nameoki United Methodist Church, 1900 Pontoon Road. A light breakfast of muffins and bagels will be served at 8 a.m. with the Zero Run starting promptly at 9 a.m. Donations of $10 (waist band) $20 (T-shirt) and $25 (both). Registration forms are available at the chamber office or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
In the end, there is no way to put a monetary value on the extraordinary things that the dedicated and caring people do. What we can do is thank them … because it is things like this and people like this that help to erase the ugly little moles and warts in every community. Thank you Pat, Thank you Joyce and Thank you Dianna!