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It's easy to donate valuable time

Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jennifer MannixThis I Believe

I believe that time is a valuable donation. For many of us, it's easier to write a check or whip out a credit card and make a donation to the many worthy organizations that need money. Of course, these organizations will always need money. But just as important, they need time, people's time.

I believe that donating time provides an intangible gift that is worth much more than money. The gift is that you are showing people you care enough to reprioritize your life just a little, in order to help or enrich the lives of other people.

Last September, I spent three weeks in the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. I've never volunteered for anything like that before, and, if I'd had more time to think about it, I might have backed out. It was scary going off to a place that had questionable living conditions and where my safety could not be guaranteed. While the relief efforts were chaotic and frantic and the devastation overwhelming, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I met hundreds of residents, many without homes anymore, and the best thing I gave them was my presence, all the way from Juneau. While I was handing out basic supplies such as food and water, the people I met were most grateful about the fact that I was there at all.

It was a life-changing experience. I saw destruction on a scale that was very hard to comprehend. I was immersed in an unfamiliar culture. And I learned an important lesson about volunteerism.

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What became clear to me was that I don't have to go away for three weeks to give my gift of time. I don't have to travel on three planes for 12 hours each way. I can find a few hours every week right here in Juneau. I can find organizations that mean something to me, and I can give my time to them. It doesn't cost me any money. And it means a lot to the people receiving my time and attention.

Since my Mississippi adventure, I volunteer a few hours a week working with kids as a basketball coach for Hooptime Basketball, and I'm a member of the city's Youth Activities Board.

I love this community. It has such a wide variety of people, with many different talents. That is why I believe time is a valuable donation. Imagine what would happen if more of us shared our talents with all of the great youth groups and non-profit organizations that Juneau has to offer. The recipients of our gifts of time would certainly benefit by getting more personal, caring attention. Also, organizations might be able to divert some of their funds away from staffing and towards other essential services. Maybe our community would become a little more cohesive too.

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