By Margee Wolff
This week, across our nation, we celebrate volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of Farm Bureau; they are vital to our success. It’s a good time to pause and consider the impact of volunteers both present and past.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. The first volunteer I worked with was Jean Bash, the leader of the New Alexandria Home Economics 4-H Club in Westmoreland County. Mrs. Bash was a constant and reliable presence for me and for my peers. Teaching me how to sew a straight seam on my first sewing project, a denim poncho with gold fringe. Hauling the groceries we needed for our cooking project. Cheering me on at fashion review. Helping me pick just the right pattern for my wool suit at Joann Fabrics. Helping me enter my orange macrame owl in the county fair.
Every day, in a thousand quiet moments, in gestures big & small, our members volunteer their time, their money, and their bountiful harvest, to care for those in need in every corner of the country.— American Farm Bureau (@FarmBureau) April 21, 2022
This #NationalVolunteerWeek and every week, we tip our hats to our volunteers. pic.twitter.com/1DnRDl4zNJ
Now, as I look back from the perspective of a busy adult – one who tries to balance work, family and my own volunteer roles, I remember Mrs. Bash’s constant presence. She was always there devoting countless hours to teaching, coaching and encouraging me and so many others. It was an amazing commitment, and an impressive investment. I think of her, and all that she taught me, often. I also think of the familiar saying, “The world is run by those who show up.” Mrs. Bash always showed up.
That’s what I love about working with volunteers. They show up, and they make a difference. They give their time and talent freely to the causes that are important to them. During planting, during harvest, during the sunniest of spring days, Farm Bureau volunteers show up to host kids on their farm, lobby at the state capitol, attend training sessions or join a committee meeting on Zoom.
Volunteers founded Farm Bureau. Leaders showed up and invested their energy to create an organization that endures beyond their lives. Generation to generation, volunteers have answered the call to serve on boards and committees to lead our organization. Volunteers power more than 2,800 county Farm Bureaus across our nation. In 51 state Farm Bureaus, they show up at fair booths, at leadership conferences and for legislative farm tours. At the national level, they plan programs to motivate others to volunteer and help them develop the skills and resources they need to make a difference in their communities. Volunteers show up for rigorous training programs such as Women’s Communications Boot Camp and Partners and Advocacy Leadership so they can more effectively advocate for their family farms.
To all our volunteers, I say a heartfelt thank you. You inspire me daily with your commitment, your passion and your expertise. You show up. You make a difference. You are improving your communities, you are building consumer trust in agriculture, you are influencing public policy. Mrs. Bash told me many times that one of the greatest gifts we have to give is our time. She was right, and our volunteers give that gift every day. Happy National Volunteer Week to all!
Margee Wolff is vice president Leadership, Education & Engagement at the American Farm Bureau Federation. National Volunteer Week (April 17-23) is an annual celebration of the positive impact of volunteers across the nation in their local communities.