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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gena Bigler: Kentucky is lucky to have many good people standing up and saying ‘why not’

“It’s the why nots who are changing the world,” said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson while commending the volunteers who won the Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism and Service. He was referencing George Bernard Shaw who wrote, “You see things, and you say why? I dream things that never were, and I say why not?”

The award-winning group honored by the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service, a division within the Cabinet for Human and Family Services, has a long and impressive list of accomplishments behind them. Their paths to service are varied, but all made giving to their community a high priority. The stories of their accomplishments are a strong elixir against apathy.

At only 10 years old, Morgan Guess has made great strides to prevent and raise awareness about bullying. Benjamin Brown Otten volunteers with a plethora of organizations serving others, and at 13 years old he is an inspiration. Alicia McClurg and Kim Standafer jumped to action and coordinated an organized response plan when their community of West Liberty was devastated by a tornado.

Carolyn Belmar gave her own time as well as recruited others; her efforts led to a summer camp that served children and provided an opportunity for seniors to serve. Laura Jo Baker has dedicated years of service helping elementary students and their parents. Marian Gosling is a renowned volunteer coordinator who works to really connect and participate with her volunteers efforts. James Terrel worked to bring a mentoring and volunteer program to his community, giving his time and recruiting others.

Mary Ruth Hawkins has dedicated 12 years to tutoring students at two schools as well as to a community program. Dr Paula Maionchi actively volunteers with multiple organizations and has served on boards and committees for nearly 40 years.

Individuals aren’t the only ones making a difference. The Kentucky Center Arts in Healing program promotes healing by immersing patients in the arts and provides musicians as well as creates hands-on art projects. PNC Bank in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area has donated funds as well as employee volunteer hours to help support the Head Start program. HOTEL INC worked to help the homeless in Bowling Green by providing food, clothing and sleeping bags in addition to providing referrals for other services and medical care.

There are many paths to service for individuals, corporations and community groups. Contact your local United Way or click here for volunteer opportunities that suit you and your lifestyle. Sometimes, it can be hard to find the time to volunteer. Think creatively about how you can give back to your community. There are many ways to integrate a hobby with volunteerism. From knitting blankets or hats to helping special needs children connect through horseback riding, there are as many ways to help others as there are stars in the sky.

If you see a need that is not being met, ask “why not?” and work to see that it is met. If you want to volunteer but find it challenging, find a buddy or group to volunteer with you. If you want to give to your community in a bigger way, consider joining AmeriCorps, VISTA or SeniorCorp. If you feel drawn to international service, consider the Peace Corps.

Some people say, “I’m only one person, what good can I do?” One person, one small step at a time can accomplish great things. The award winning volunteers mentioned above have each impacted many, many lives. The ripples from one small act of kindness can reach far.

Lt. Gov. Abramson said that “Good people stand up and say why not. Kentucky is lucky to have so many good people asking that very question every day. When good people stand up, it benefits the whole community. Thank you to all the good people who stand up.

For a complete list of the award winners, see Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism and Service given to 14 in Frankfort ceremony on KyForward.

Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at lgbigler@gmail.com.


Click here to read more columns from Gena Bigler.



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