Corporate Finance & Governance | Leadership / Management

Volunteers needed during holidays … and beyond

Hum Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely of sources.

This week, it came from an intern at a Baltimore homeless shelter.

To call the Helping Up Mission a homeless shelter, though, doesn't really do it justice. The 125-year-old mission supports poor and homeless men in Baltimore through a "spiritual recovery program" that centers specifically on drug and alcohol addiction. The year-long program addresses "the intellectual, physical, social and spiritual needs" of each man enrolled and boasts one of the highest recovery rates in the country.

So said Barry Burnett, the intern in question. A team of MACPA staffers -- myself included -- spent half a day at the mission as part of our first-ever MACPA Volunteer Day. (A second team helped out at Our Daily Bread, which serves more than 250,000 meals to Baltimore's hungry each year.) Burnett guided us through our orientation.

Then came the surprise. After orientation, we asked Burnett what he did before coming to work at the mission. "I was on the street," he said. "I came here as a member of the program."

And he's not alone. The mission's staff is dotted with graduates of the recovery program -- men who came to the mission in a desperate search for help, found it, then decided to stay so they could help others through their own recoveries.

Talk about inspiring.

There's no denying the importance of volunteers. They fill a huge need by giving their time and talent to worthy causes. In the MACPA's case, we made a few beds, mopped a few floors, handed out a few meals. At the end of our all-too-infrequent good turns, though, we get to go home, warm and well fed, where our own problems pale in comparison to those of the people we just helped.

Then there are folks like Barry Burnett, who admits that he probably owes his life to the Helping Up Mission and willingly pays that debt through service to the mission. "It has changed my life and given it purpose," he told us.

So what can we learn from folks like Burnett?

For me, the lesson is this: The need doesn't start during the holiday season, and it doesn't end when we volunteers go home. The challenge is to keep that spirit of giving throughout the year, to lend a hand as a matter of course, not just as an annual event.

How are you doing that? Tell us your volunteer success stories, then find out more about the value of volunteerism in this AICPA / MACPA video:

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Bill Sheridan