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Nov. 05

Happy International Volunteer Manager Day

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Today's post is written by Lori Jean Mantooth, Director of Training Programs at Points of Light.

I was active in Tennessee 4-H Youth Development for most of my life. It was fun, I learned new things and occasionally we got to take trips to exciting places like Daytona Beach, Washington, D.C., and Martin, Tenn.

One of my main 4-H activities was food and nutrition judging. Our four-person team would evaluate menus for nutritional value, judge home-canned goods like green beans and tomatoes, compare unit prices on groceries and determine which homemade loaf of bread was the best. (Sounds fun, right? It really was.) If we judged all those things better than the other teams from around the district, we won top honors for the year. My sophomore year, we actually won the state contest.

The problem with winning is that you don’t get to compete again. My junior year, I was at loose ends. But in my senior year, my 4-H agent, Kathy Finley, saw a need: new judging teams and not enough volunteers to help them. She realized that I had the necessary skills and an interest in the work, so she recruited me to be an assistant coach. To be honest, she’s a force to be reckoned with and it’s hard to say no. That’s why she still has one of the strongest 4-H volunteer programs in the state of Tennessee. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t want to say no; in fact, I was honored to be asked.

Did teaching those younger kids how to compare unit prices or judge homemade bread change the world? Did we end hunger or improve the educational system in our town? No. But it made a difference to those kids that someone spent time with them, taught them something new and cheered them on at the district competition.

And it made a difference to me. Someone saw that I had something to give and then matched me with an opportunity to serve.

Now, years later and hundreds of miles away from that volunteer experience, I am privileged to work in the training department at Points of Light, where I focus primarily on capacity building for nonprofits and government agencies. I write curriculum, develop resources, deliver training and also manage the workshops for the Conference on Volunteering and Service.

Every day at work I hear stories of volunteers making a difference, one act of service at a time. People do truly incredible things. And behind the scenes, helping to make the magic happen, are volunteer managers. They may not all have that title, but they’re the people who see potential in those around them and then unlock that potential through service. They’re leaders. Motivators. Heroes.

On Nov. 5, please join me, Points of Light and thousands of other organizations in celebrating International Volunteer Managers Day. Just take a look around you and you’ll see some of the busiest, most passionate and dedicated people in the world. They’re in nonprofits, governments, businesses, churches, schools . . . and your local 4-H office.

Say thank you. Buy them a pumpkin spice latte. Throw a party. Send an e-card. Celebrate the people who truly make a difference.

To Kathy Finley and the volunteer mangers around the world who help us all find a way to give back, THANK YOU.

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