Donald Spano enjoys doing something most of us don’t: taxes. In fact, he likes doing taxes so much he’s devoted 21 years post-retirement to volunteering as an AARP tax preparer. Now a regional coordinator for the service, Donald manages logistics for a team of about 4,000 volunteers who spend the season helping senior citizens complete their tax forms for free.
People who volunteer like to say they enjoy giving back to their communities. But what if you move every few years and you’ve only just arrived in your community? It takes a special drive, a special motivation, to be able to jump right in and start “giving back” to a new place where you have no history and don’t know a soul. But that’s what Doug Graves has been doing for more than 40 years.
A food pantry volunteer since childhood in rural Iowa, Maria Rose Belding grew frustrated at the uneven nature of food donations. One day when Belding was 15, a well-intentioned donor gave her local food pantry a year’s worth of macaroni and cheese. “They didn’t ask us if we needed it,” she said. “But they gave us 5 tons of it.” After several months, clients at the food pantry were begging for something else, and after a year, the boxes were expiring. Belding was tasked with lugging the excess out in the snow to the dumpster. “As I did, I saw people outside, waiting in the cold for hours before we opened because they needed food so badly,” says Belding. “I thought, there has to be a better way.”
When nine-year-old Rishi Sethi started a chess club at his elementary school, he got the idea to teach the game at a nearby nursing home. Buoyed by the sense of helping others, the club branched out into other local community service projects, mostly chosen and managed by Rishi and his young classmates. Now the club, Chess Without Borders, is about a lot more than chess. The Illinois-based club, started in 1998, has grown into an organization that helps causes around the world.