Recently, I was in Houston, Texas to attend the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. The summit celebrated its 25th anniversary and was hosted by an organization called Points of Light, whose focus is on the spirit of service and best practices for mobilizing volunteers and creating unity through diversity. When George H. W. Bush was president, he founded Points of Light and made the call to community service. During his inaugural speech in 1989 he suggested, “all the individuals and community organizations spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good.” President Bush laid the foundation for this national, now global, volunteer movement and it has been built upon by every succeeding president—which is what he requested when he left office.
A diverse group attends these sessions and includes non-profit volunteer administrators, leaders of corporate volunteer programs, and social entrepreneurs. The opening plenary featured a spoken-word performance by Grammy Award-winning poet J. Ivy who urged us to “disrupt the status quo,” adding, “Being a change maker is about finding a course, igniting a spark and inspiring others to stop and take notice.”
The event organizers were not shy about acknowledging the needs of communities and schools, and explaining that through volunteerism everyone—no matter who you are—can lend a hand.
To stress the importance of this unified effort, they brought together a vast array of distinguished speakers from both sides of the political spectrum, religious affiliations and civic organizations to show how we can bridge our differences. Each speaker had a similar vision for using their social, political or religious influence to help fight poverty, create gender equality, and provide service using proven solutions.
There were a number of incredible workshops, immersion learning sessions, and I had the rare opportunity to engage in personal conversations with volunteer leaders from all around the country. A resounding theme for the conference was that community service is powerful and can bring people together—across race, income, religion, age, geography, and yes, even politics—to help one another.
I left the conference feeling mentally refreshed and ready disrupt the status quo as J. Ivy urged. My passion has been refueled, and I am encouraged to forge ahead with innovative ideas for our Mercy Home volunteer initiatives to ensure every active participant is positively impacted by the service they provide to our agency.
Dee Atkins, Director of Volunteer Resources