Why I Volunteer


By Mimi Wilson, Board President, WVCAN

I’ve done a lot of volunteering over the years. Like the years themselves, the reasons vary. I volunteered for my kids. I volunteered for work. I did it to make friends or keep old ones close at hand. At this point, I volunteer for almost existential reasons – it’s a way to say what I wish for out loud and act willfully to make it happen. I wish every home was happy and every child was loved. But they’re not. So I volunteer with WVCAN and encourage you to do likewise.

If you’re one of the 75% of Americans who doesn’t volunteer, take heart. It’s probably not your fault. A bad volunteer experience is like a bad game of golf. It seems pointless, never-ending and “a good walk spoiled.”

A good organization tries to connect the dots, which WVCAN does very well. It works the sectors and through the system. We collaborate with other agencies, professionals and non-profits. We educate, advocate and try to mitigate the suffering of child abuse victims through every means at our disposal. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way. As far as rewarding volunteer experiences go, WVCAN is a hole-in-one.

I volunteer for WVCAN because they need me – or make me feel like they do. I feel integral to the mission and engaged at the 25-carat level. WVCAN has a small paid staff but an army of volunteers around the state who fight for kids every day. They can’t and don’t want to do it without us volunteers, which feels really good.

A great volunteer experience is impossible without a great leader. And we have Emily, our responsible, indefatigable, irresistible executive director. Emily – and the team she has built – walk the talk. They take setbacks in stride and avoid shortcuts, opting for real relationships and lasting change. Children are Emily’s passion. We are lucky to have her.

She also studied Shakespeare at Oxford. But I’m not going to end with The Bard. I’m going to end with a little Tom Cruise:

“We live in a cynical world.”

Volunteering for WVCAN makes me think and feel otherwise. Did you know the word ‘hope’ has been around the English language for more than 1,000 years – before it was “the thing with feathers”? What a beautiful thought! Hope isn’t all we have but it’s the thing we can least do without. WVCAN gives abused children hope – in the form of professionals who help them heal and in the knowledge that others care deeply, and like a loving parent, feel their pain. The poet Shel Silverstein says it best:

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts.

Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…

Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

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