For the past 15 years, Sharon Mineo’s dedication as an AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP volunteer has been nothing short of extraordinary. Her extensive volunteer work with Blue Star Families, the Coast Guard Kids Club and various other organizations highlights her commitment to serving military families, children and her community. Sharon’s personal connection to the military, as mother and grandmother to veterans and active-duty service members, fuels her passion for addressing the unique challenges they face, especially food insecurity.
Sharon’s role at Blue Star Families is multifaceted. As a food pantry assistant with the Nourish the Service Food Closet, she plays a crucial role in addressing the issue of food insecurity among military families. Her efforts extend to leading collection drives to ensure the pantry is well-stocked. Furthermore, as a special events volunteer, Sharon helps these families feel more connected to their community, providing a sense of belonging and access to essential resources.
During the holidays, Sharon’s thoughtfulness shines through as she creates special packages for military children, recognizing and appreciating their sacrifices. Her involvement with the Coast Guard Kids Club further demonstrates her commitment to providing a supportive environment for children in military families. By organizing fun and safe activities at Fort Wadsworth, she ensures these children have joyful experiences while their parents engage in sponsored events.
Sharon’s service extends beyond military support. At Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), she assists the auxiliary in raising funds for hospital equipment and participates in major events like golf outings and charity walks. Her dedication to HAVE A HEART Foundation, a nonprofit aiding those with heart conditions, is evident in her involvement in their major fundraisers, such as the spring walk and breakfast with Santa.
Finally, Sharon’s long-term involvement with the Grandmothers Club, spanning more than 30 years, showcases her enduring commitment to children’s charities. Despite the national organization disbanding, Sharon’s local club remains active, continuing to raise funds for children.
Tell us about your volunteer role.
Which one? I really enjoy working at Fort Wadsworth. I like working with all the military, spouses and their children. That’s probably my biggest passion: the military.
I do work with the Grandmothers Club and have for 30 years. I have lots of friends there. We have a monthly meeting, and I’ve always enjoyed it. We raise money for children’s charity.
Then, there’s the hospital. Again, we raise money for items needed at the hospital. For instance, a warming blanket in pediatrics, new bassinets, those types of things. We host fundraisers there.
Why is this organization and issue so important to you?
Regarding Fort Wadsworth, I always wanted to work with the military. My daughter served, my two sons served, my nephew served. They’ve done their part, and I always wanted to do my part. I’m part of the Senior Corps, and when the opportunity came available and they were asking for people, I jumped at it. It’s gotten to be a really important part of my life.
For the Grandmothers Club, our national charity focused on childhood cancer called Cure Childhood Cancer Association. Every childhood disease needs something. Now, we sponsor local charities, for instance nonprofits for children with autism or cerebral palsy.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s all rewarding. As far as working with Cure Childhood Cancer Association, the new treatments that they’re getting are remarkable. We were watching children who didn’t survive, seeing what they went through. Now, they have new individualized treatments. It has made an impact.
Then, I see the spouses and children of the Coast Guards, and what we’ve done has really made a difference for them. Their kids are happy, they’re happy. We can help them out a little.
Why is it important for people to get involved with the causes they care about?
I know a lot of people care about a lot of different causes and don’t necessarily do anything. They might donate money. But with volunteering, you’re more directly involved. You learn more about the situations and what’s actually going on. What I’ve gotten out of it myself is a lot more than I’ve ever given. You meet people that you would never have expected to meet before. That’s so rewarding.
Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?
Just do it! There are so many opportunities. It’s not just food pantries or volunteering at the hospital. Especially here in Staten Island, there are so many different opportunities – Meals on Wheels, Snug Harbor Garden. There are so many ways to get involved.
Find something close to you, something you like. It’s a shame more people don’t do it. It doesn’t really take more than a couple of hours. You don’t have to do five days a week. You could put in an hour a week and still feel fulfilled.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I’ve been doing this for many, many years, and as I said, I feel I’ve gotten much more out of it than I’ve ever put in. My time has been rewarded by getting to know people and seeing change happen.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Sharon? Find local volunteer opportunities.