Volunteers Inspire Me Each and Every Day

Robin E. Kinney

Minnesota Farm Bureau

Farm Bureau members in Nicollet County, Minnesota, sort food at a local food bank.

photo credit: Robin E. Kinney, Minnesota Farm Bureau

My life has been truly blessed by working alongside volunteers for four decades. They are the heart and soul of a non-profit organization, including the Farm Bureau. Their commitment, dedication, passion and time are the reasons for our success in advocacy and programming.

Volunteers matter! They enrich our communities, from the township level to the legislature and from the church pew to our schools.

The volunteers I work with have had a positive and profound effect on me. I enjoy the time spent with them and I look forward to the opportunity to surface new volunteers and work with them, learning their goals and providing resources to help them stretch and grow.

Just the other day, during a very busy spring on the farm, eight volunteers made themselves available to unload a semitruck of donated food for their local community food shelf. They showed up early, rolled up their sleeves and sorted bags of onions and potatoes while waiting for the semi to arrive. As the truck backed into place, they downed their jackets, grabbed wheeled platforms and unloaded over 5,700 pounds of boxed food in less than an hour, then opened the boxes and stocked the shelves. They did this without complaint, in fact they joked about how this was their conditioning for moving seed bags later in the day.

The volunteers I know are vital to ensuring that their organizations succeed because they are willing to show up, give generously of their time and talents, and are dependable. They serve without asking a question when they see a need and their enthusiasm is contagious!

As National Volunteer Week is recognized each April (21st – 27th this year), volunteers are not looking for accolades, praise or recognition. As a matter of fact, they’ll quickly brush aside a thank you and respond with a quick “happy to help” smile as they soldier on.

We need to encourage volunteerism in the next generation and support the mentorship of those who give today. We should also share that living a life of service provides a feeling of satisfaction from knowing you have contributed to the betterment of a cause and made a difference.

As our volunteers age, it’s important to provide opportunities to the next generation for micro-volunteering, which can be a perfect fit for those who are not looking for long-term commitment yet want to contribute to their community and special interests in meaningful ways. Younger volunteers will learn how to organize, set goals, and gain experience, if we just let them and give up some of control. Their involvement will result in their friends becoming interested, attending and contributing – igniting contagious energy with the potential to multiply and enrich us all.

As we celebrate volunteers and their contributions during National Volunteer Week and throughout the year, consider that we all have the same amount of time: 60 minutes in an hour, seven days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. It is a personal decision on how we use our time but be assured that volunteers make a difference. They are modern day change-makers because they continue to step up and offer to serve.

Through my work, I’ve known volunteers from coast to coast, I’ve worked beside them and watched as they lend a hand, stepped into leadership, and extended themselves to others. They are alumni of the local FFA Chapter; serve on the county fair board, or coach the local 4-H team. They serve their community in hundreds of different ways. As I count my many blessings, my gratitude for these volunteers continues to grow. I just can’t imagine my world without them. I thank all of them for making a difference in my community…enriching me with your generosity and willingness to give of yourself and your time.

Robin E. Kinney is director of membership and marketing for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation.