Points of Light Unites `House of Service’ in Rousing Closing Session
We are all united in the house of service. That’s the message Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush delivered to a packed closing plenary session today, wrapping up the 2014 Conference on Volunteering and Service.
Thousands of volunteers and service leaders from the around the world converged on Atlanta June 16-18 for three days of training, networking and the opportunity to inspire creative new approaches to volunteerism.
"If you are engaged in a project you can end in your lifetime, the project is too small,” the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church told closing plenary attendees, encouraging them to embrace the talents and diversity around them to create social change.
Creating change requires individuals and organizations to overcome adversity, and attendees of the Conference – sponsored by UPS – heard from speakers who found courage to act in the most difficult circumstances.
The Eckert family of Ohio was awarded the Daily Point of Light Award for a story that drew a standing ovation from Conference attendees. As an 8-year-old, Myles Eckert, who lost his father in Iraq, gave a $20 bill he found to a soldier dining – and sparked a million-dollar movement to support children of soldiers killed during active duty.
Kathy Eldon, founder and chairman of the Creative Visions Foundation, shared how she found strength after the death of her son, Dan Eldon, a photojournalist killed in Somalia in 1993. In his honor, she launched an organization that encourages activists to take creative approaches toward generating awareness and action around key social issues.
“We can’t solve the problems of the whole world, but we can tackle the problems in the world around us,” she said.
For organizations and individuals to drive social change and service movements, they must effectively communicate their own stories and why their causes matter. Mark Swinton of Tyler Perry Studios and Kristian Bush, musician from the Grammy-winning country group Sugarland, encouraged Conference attendees to find new and creative approaches to storytelling.
The musician compared the time and difficulty it takes for volunteers and nonprofits to tell their stories with the challenges of writing a hit song – ultimately, success depends on perseverance, patience and the ability to learn from adversity.
Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino was on hand to make sure the stories of 29 million trafficking victims around the world are told. In an impassioned closing plenary speech, Sorvino reminded attendees that they are “natural-born abolitionists” and have a role to play in ending modern-day slavery.
"If we can make people's lives better, then surely we must do that,” she said.
Closing plenary attendees also had the opportunity to learn about individuals and movements shaping the future of service. Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, shared the stories of inspirational volunteers nationwide, while John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, imagined an America where all citizens performed a service year.
Opportunities for service are expanding, thanks to ServiceWorks – powered by the Citi Foundation, AmeriCorps and Points of Light – a groundbreaking, national program that uses volunteer service as a strategy to help 25,000 low-income youth develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers. Representatives from the 10 host sites throughout America were on hand at the closing plenary to get welcomes and well wishes from Conference attendees.
Thousands of Conference attendees left Atlanta inspired and equipped to confront the new challenges and opportunities facing their communities. Poet Tonya Ingram and actress Lynn Whitfield performed dramatic recitations of Maya Angelou poems, encouraging attendees to find the strength and grit to continue advancing their causes and giving back.
“You get to your destination,” Eldon reminded attendees, “and then it starts all over again.”