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Volunteering can be a learning experience too
While the volunteer rate declined across the United States in 2013, for certain individuals, volunteering is at an all-time high.
Volunteerism may have dipped by 1.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but there’s still individuals who tackle volunteerism with enthusiasm.
Volunteers like Anita Williams of Silverdale. Williams said she can’t even imagine a life without volunteering. She started in her early thirties, and now 20 years retired she’s still at it.
“Volunteering gives me more than I give,” she said. “You understand your community more. It leads you to places interest-wise you would have never thought to go.”
Williams is a regular volunteer for the Kitsap Historical Society & Museum in Bremerton. She also volunteers with the Literary Council and is active in the Bremerton Symphony Association.
One of her favorite volunteer activities is planning and organizing events for the historical society and utilizing skills she’s picked up along the way in life. She also is one of the founders of the society’s Old Mill Town Christmas event, which is hosted at the historic Seabeck Conference Center.
The event, a nod to the mid 1800s, is a program Williams and others have become proud of over the years. It was while she was at another event at the conference center that she discovered how prominent the historical spot was for the area.
“It’s become a family tradition,” she said of the event. “It’s different, and it brings alive the history.”
She also takes active roles in organizing “Eat Your Way Through Kitsap History” and the “Kitsap Heritage Family Banquet” as a way to advocate the museum and, more importantly, help raise funds for the museum.
In her 12th year of volunteering for the Kitsap Historical Society & Museum, she’s always grateful to see the turnouts improve yearly for the big events.
“It’s rewarding to see the people appreciate this history,” she said. “I think it’s very rewarding that people support it and recognize it for the historical context. And, of course, it raises money.”
While Williams notes that non-profits can always use financial donations, volunteers are in high demand as well. Volunteering is also a way to use skills that may not be regularly used in a job, but it also allows people to be exposed to unique situations, she said.
For her, that’s meant meeting new people, learning about surprising historical spots and discovering something new daily.
“There’s almost always interesting work. In volunteering, you can pick and choose what is more interesting to you,” she said. “I understand that non-profits would not exist without volunteers. If volunteers don’t do it, it won’t be there. That’s why we need to step up if we want our community to be strong and interesting.”
An added benefit — aside from doing a good deed — is the amount of gratitude that comes back, Williams said. There’s a deeper level of appreciation and respect that volunteers get, she said.
“It’s just personally rewarding. I get a lot of thanks for that. I’m not sure there’s much of that in a paid job,” she said. “You’re appreciated. That’s nice.”
If there’s one person who is always grateful for Williams, it is Megan D. Bradley, Kitsap County Historical Society Museum program coordinator. With Williams around to help organize events, Bradley is able to focus on other details for large-scale events like “Eat Your Way Through Kitsap History.”
She’s just the neatest lady,” Bradley said of Williams. “She is a wonderful example of a hard working volunteer that loves the cause she is working for. Her interest is always for the well being of the museum and the enjoyment of its patrons.”
Williams, a bit of a history buff, hopes others appreciate the history lessons she gives through the events and other activities she helps plan. While the arts and music community have her heart, she’s one to promote volunteerism in all ways.
“I think in this country we’d be lost (without volunteerism),” she said. “Things like museums and helping people need a boost (in finances). We just really need to be sure we are able to sustain.”
It is Williams’ hope that others will see the need and fill it. For her, it has been a lot about helping and a little about learning.
“I learned more about the community and so much has gone on here (in history),” she said. “It’s a learning experience every single time.”