I sometimes call myself a professional volunteer. During the 16 years my husband has been in the Army, I have tried to volunteer wherever we are stationed.
Military installations offer many opportunities to volunteer. There is your spouse's unit family readiness group. There are community organizations such as the Red Cross. There are also social groups, such as wives clubs, which raise impressive amounts of money to donate to numerous charities.
I have volunteered in most all of these groups at one time or another. I have loved every minute of it.
Even though I did not receive a paycheck for my time and effort, the friends I made and the ability to see the inner workings of an organization rewarded me. I learned so much from each experience.
Army Family Team Building gave me the chance to conquer my biggest phobia, public speaking. I spoke to other Army wives in classes about being a readiness group leader. I found that if you believe in what you are teaching, it makes it much easier.
Being a PTA secretary when my younger son, Jordan, was in elementary school was a valuable experience. I learned to listen carefully, since I took the minutes of each board meeting. That can prove difficult if talking is what you think you do best.
Volunteering in both of my sons' classes allowed me to get to know their teachers on a more personal level; I also caught glimpses of their interaction with other kids and their teachers. Legitimate snooping is often a mother's dream.
My family also has taken volunteering to heart. My husband has coached youth sports teams when he has had the time. Jordan has been in a school service organization, which helped collect toys and school supplies for children in a village in Africa, among other projects.
When my older son, Jonathon, was in high school, he probably volunteered as much as I did. Although he worked with Habitat for Humanity and other school and community service organizations, his favorite project was volunteering for the 1999 U.S. Open. Free admission to watch the best golfers in the world could have been an incentive too.
I recently volunteered at Jordan's school to help the PTSA collect magazine orders from middle school students. The volunteers were also responsible for counting and adding the total sales from each class.
Although each organization usually has its own volunteer recognition ceremony at the end of the year, I prefer the quiet thank you I receive from a teacher at the end of the day or the smile from a student after helping him or her work on a math problem. A hug beats a certificate any day.