As we kick-off National Volunteer Week, what words come to mind when you think about volunteers? Caring? Dedicated? Selfless? Perhaps all of the above? I’ll add two more . . . absolutely essential.
Men in tuxedos and women in sparkly jackets mingle in the Green Room of the Little Theater of Alexandria (LTA) in Virginia. A pianist in the far corner plays show tunes on a baby grand piano while a small group sings “Hello, Dolly.” Other guests sip wine and nibble on artistically presented hors d’oeuvres.
President Obama described him as a “hero” who “helped changed this country for the better.” The Rev. Jesse Jackson called him a “leader with strength, character.” NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock said he “inspired a generation of civil rights leaders.” Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, where he taught history for many years, called him a beloved retired professor who “shaped the course of history through his life and work.”
For my avid followers (are you out there?), you may recall that I previously described my trials during Super Storm (why can't we all just call it a Hurricane) Sandy, and the random (or not so random) acts of kindness I experienced. In the research world we call this "informal" volunteering: people helping out neighbors. It seems a lot of folks help out in this informal way in addition to volunteering for organizations or charitable groups. AARP recently released a report on Civic Engagement that highlights the many ways Americans age 50 and older are engaged in their communities. In fact, equal numbers of those we surveyed volunteer more informally by helping in their communities as volunteer through an organization.
There was enough warning, you could watch the weather channel and the local news to watch the path of Hurricane Sandy. Everyone knew she was coming. Experts were predicting the worst-case scenarios. But in the aftermath, the truth of what Hurricane Sandy left behind in the burned-out homes in Breezy Point, Queens, to the flooded buildings and subways in New York City. The reality of the devastation was widespread and heartbreaking. In the words of President Obama "This is going to take some time," he said. "It is not going to be easy for these communities to recover." We have seen the resiliency of New York City and it's citizens' uncanny ability to pull together in times of great tragedy. From the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers have a spirit that is not so easily broken.
Like many who live in the Northeast, I lost power during Hurricane Sandy. For a week. I'm luckier than some, as I have a generator to at least keep my heat going. But on Tuesday, day two without electricity, my generator died at 6:30am. Within minutes I could feel the house temperature dropping. I don't panic, I thought, it just meant it needed to be fed oil, right? But OMG the oil was in the garage and with no power the door won't go up! Oops. Okay, so I got dressed and walked to the gas station half a mile from home to buy oil. No biggie, right? But the two gas stations in town had no power (YIKES!) so, no oil. Okay, there were two more big stations a mile or two mile further down on the road. I can do this, I think.
On a rainy day in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania NFLPA former players, AFL-CIO members, community activists, and community organizers got together for an event called My Vote My Right, to educate the public on the new voter ID laws instituted in Pennsylvania. There have been many studies on the effects of the new legislation on people's ability to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law,
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