What it means to volunteer in Macomb

April 12-18 is Volunteer Appreciation Week

Are you a service organization in Macomb County? The Department of Planning & Economic Development wants to hear from you

Macomb County is a great place to volunteer. However, I only found this out somewhat recently. As a 30-something in Macomb County, it’s only been in the last few years since I began to develop my desire to help others.

Recently several of us created a nonprofit organization for young professionals called NextGEN. We wanted a collective voice to represent an age range that can help stop the “brain drain” (young professionals who go to school, receive training, or attend college in Michigan, but leave the state to seek employment elsewhere) and become stewards of the county who network, develop professionally and, just as importantly, volunteer.

It’s easy for us to fall into the pit of “I don’t have enough time,” “I work 80 hours a week,” “I have too many irons in the fire,” or “I have a family with small ones and they take all of my time.” But what if you gave an hour a month? The nice thing about volunteering is that you can do more or less based on the balance of your life.

Volunteering at its very core is one of the highest forms of payment one can make; it’s the donation of time. Volunteering with organizations can bring compassion and gratification into your life. It’s the face-to-face interaction, or being part of real change that lends itself to being a piece of the bigger picture. It helps signify our inner desire to want to be part of the solution as opposed to a sideline observer. Furthermore, it’s not about the “thank you” or the “job well done.” It’s about the respect of ourselves and others, about stewarding our values and what’s important to us. It’s all about making the area around you a better place to live, work and play… and leaving it better than when you found it.

That is why I volunteer in Macomb County. I want to make it better. It was a great county when I got here. But if given the chance, I’d like to do my part to make it better. I probably volunteer 10 to 15 hours a month. It’s not a lot, but it is what I have to give now. Everyone has the opportunity to change what’s around them, whether it be personal, work related, or the community in general. However, in order to make change, you must be an active part of it, not just demand it. Not hope for it or wish for it, but roll up your sleeves and wrestle with it and create it.

In Macomb County, there are so many deserving organizations that need your time. I would offer that you need to find what you are passionate about or what you enjoy doing. Volunteering not only inspires us, but helps us learn. Also, if you have anxiety about being a new person at these events or opportunities … think again. More than likely the first time you volunteer it will be the first for other people in the room. Then, before you know it, people may be inspired by you.

Kevin Chandler is Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences at Macomb Community College and president of NextGEN Macomb. 

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