2017-04-13 / Opinion

Volunteers are Superheroes


Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” The American activist Marian Wright Edelman may have started the thread when she wrote, “Service is the rent we pay for being,” but Ali was famous for turning a phrase. Besides conveying the importance of lending a hand with that sentence, Ali also reveals something about what motivates the volunteer. It’s the giving back to show how thankful one is.

Call it activism with gratitude.

April is National Volunteer Month. It is a time to honor volunteers and highlight their contributions. Locally, it is a good time to recognize the tremendous impact volunteers make, especially in a community such as Newport with its lengthy list of non-profits.

To name just a few, volunteers from the MLK Center, Lucy’s Hearth, the Potter League, the Newport Art Museum and Meals on Wheels, Child & Family, the Women’s Resource Center, Sail Newport and Star Kids work throughout the year to change lives and nourish our community.

People take notice when an American superhero such as Ali refers in such a powerful way to the importance of service to others. But it is the local volunteers, our local superheroes, who must carry on that mission. It is difficult to imagine anything being accomplished in this town without the many volunteers who give their time and talent.

“Volunteerism is not just attending meetings,” says Donna Maytum, one of the organizers of next week’s “Clean Sweep” of Broadway on Saturday, April 22. “It helps build a sense of community. It’s giving of time and talent, not just writing checks that make vibrant organizations. Working next to other volunteers gives you the opportunity to get to know them.”

John Hirschboeck, who brought Daffodillion and Daffy Days to Newport’s springtime cityscape, thinks like Ali. “I want to give back what I can to [my] adopted city of Newport,” he said. “I get back in a sense of fulfillment many times over what I contribute.”

We know there are countless unnamed volunteers whose contributions are significant and as important as any superhero's.

Every time a soup kitchen serves a meal or a homeless child is fed and sleeps in a bed, there are volunteers to thank. When a student learns to sail, paint or play the violin, volunteers play a part. When a shut-in gets a home-cooked meal, a dog or cat finds a new home or a runner runs a marathon, we have volunteers to thank.

When you see a volunteer, say thanks. And consider becoming one.

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