Why I Volunteer
(A letter written to us by Richard P.)
I have been volunteering for the past three years for the United Ways HandsOn Tampa, now called HandsOn Suncoast. Some of the organizations that I volunteer with through the United Way are Lowry Park Zoo, Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. I also volunteered for groups outside of the United Way with Rebuilding Tampa Together and Building Homes for Hero’s. In addition to my local volunteering I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala where we built two homes. During the volunteer year that ended in December 2013 I had volunteered for a total of 354 hours through the United Way and I was awarded the Presidential Silver Award for Volunteerism.
This year I am going to Malawi, Africa with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for orphans.
People ask why I spend so much time volunteering. I tell them when I am at the Ronald McDonald house cooking dinner for the parents of children that are in the hospital and they come in at the end of the day and see that there is a nice hot meal waiting for them, the look of relief on the face gives me great satisfaction. Their knowing that there is one less thing that they have to worry about is thanks enough for me. Sometimes they can bring their child back to the house and I get to talk with them and these kids are amazing! Their spirits are always high and they truly appreciate the meal as well. This is why I volunteer!
When I am volunteering at Lowry Park Zoo for $6 dollar day and I see the faces of the little kids that are able to make it to the zoo due to the price and they see the baby elephant or the giraffe eat some lettuce out of their hand, it just warms my heart. During Wild Wonderland at Christmas or Zoo Boo during Halloween these little ones are awestruck by the lights and can’t take enough in. Or the old couple who just walk around like they were young again and tell you how beautiful everything is. This is why I volunteer.
The one organization that I volunteer with that makes the largest difference in people’s lives is Habitat for Humanity. Some people believe that they give these homes away, but that is not the fact. The new homeowners must qualify and purchase the home. Granted it is a zero percent, 30 year mortgage that averages $700 per month, but they still have to work for it.
This past weekend truly brought home why I do this. The homeowner of the home we were working on and I were talking and I asked him how the conditions were where he and his family were currently living. You see, one of the qualifying points is that the homeowner candidate must list substandard or dangerous housing. He was telling me that where he lived with his wife and 5 children it was so bad that during the night he would have to get up several times to wipe the roaches off of his kids! No one should have to live in these conditions in this or any other country! This is why I volunteer!
While building homes in Guatemala the family had 2 small boys ages 4 and 5. They were their grandchildren as their parents just up and left them. The homes that we build in Guatemala are block inside and out, with no kitchen and just a bathroom, yet the smile on the face of the homeowners and especially the two boys was all the thanks I needed for spending 7 days in 98 weather with no shade. This is why I volunteer!
I encourage others to volunteer as well. The first time you do and the first thing you volunteer for may not be the right thing for you, but don’t give up try something else. You will find something that you enjoy doing like I have and you will feel good each time you volunteer and you will make a difference one person at a time and that is a great start. That is why I volunteer!
***Richard is one of our superstar HandsOn Suncoast Volunteer Leaders (who also serves as a United Way HandsOn Suncoast Ambassador as well.) This basically sums up National Volunteer Month!***