My Volunteer Story

(The following is an account based upon the background and experience of a volunteer who recently requested help from Volunteer MBC to be matched to suitable volunteering opportunities. Identifying information necessarily has been omitted.)

He was a ‘walk-in’ to the office, one of many on a weekly basis. Somewhere between age 25 and 40, in Volunteer MBC’s reception, he appeared hesitant, unsure, and quietly worried. He came through the door for a reason, and as he later disclosed, his reason was a mixture of cautious curiosity and, as it turned out, genuine personal need. Let’s call him ‘Bill’.

At the time, a volunteer engagement assistant typically made no assumptions. It was a matter of pure, friendly reception. After filling out the ‘Volunteer Opportunity Request Form’, a review of its contents took place with Bill. To zero in on suitable volunteering opportunities, there was a gentle exploration of Bill’s background. He was told that talking about himself was totally up to him. Anxiety and wariness gave way to increasing trust, and Bill became visibly relaxed and conversational.

One unusual aspect of the ‘profile’ was that Bill had no access to email (a convenient means of communication with Volunteer MBC). Not to worry: Bill was asked to return in a few days to receive ‘recommendations’ about volunteering opportunities.

Upon Bill’s return, the ‘positions’ recommended were provided as print copies, with highlighted contact information. He grew increasingly talkative, and it got personal. Bill revealed a very serious problem with alcohol and the fact that as a ‘Millennial’, between family and other issues, for several years, he was extremely vulnerable, due to crushingly low self-esteem. (He began drinking at age 15.) That and the want of help close by made abuse of alcohol all too easy. In Bill’s words, “I felt lost. I felt terribly isolated and alone.” These feelings were aggravated by judgmental attitudes, on ‘social media’ and amongst his relatives and friends, about people struggling with addiction.

Inside, though, the Bill was trying to work his way out of a terribly tough situation and hugely anti-social lifestyle. There were glimmers. High marks in one or two post-secondary courses, yet Bill struggled to “get my act together”. He was in desperate need of a fresh step, to end the chaos.

Tough situations sometimes involve the police, even if you’re not the reason for the call. Maybe it was luck, but the Bill came to know about Volunteer MBC when a police officer provided information and a card, with encouragement. And as the Bill describes it, “I took a chance by contacting you.”

Bill (now a new volunteer) by his own admission has a way to go in terms of recovery (he’s been sober for about a year now, yet “temptation is always there”). Volunteering to walk dogs from a local animal shelter earlier this year renewed his sense of purpose, a feeling of belonging, even “therapy”, and it made him realize that there’s a real horizon beyond a case of beer. Between that and the police, Bill sought out Volunteer MBC to give him access to more opportunities, and to people who will befriend him in making a tangible difference in the community where Bill lives. Though not guaranteed, Bill sees volunteering as a big part of the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

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