When it came time to brainstorm topics for our April newsletter, our volunteers came to mind. It also happens to be National Volunteer Month. Without all of our devoted volunteers none of this would be possible! We asked a few volunteers what their favorite part about volunteering with Encore Learning is and what they have learned through their experiences. Here is what they shared with us.
Edward Rader, a VCA and member of Encore Learning for 10 years, says, “The organization works because of its volunteers, if people don’t volunteer things don't get done. It was not just me giving to the organization, it was me getting a little back in return. People want to give back to the organizations they take part in. Not only does helping out give you something to do but it also can have a major impact.”
What we have learned is that Encore Learning helps further student’s education and allows them to meet new people, especially since classes are on Zoom. It is an enjoyable and safe way to meet people in your community.
Volunteer Gerry Fuller, a VCA and member for 10 years, said that it helps him feel more connected and involved when he is the VCA. He shared, “it is a way to keep engaged in the community, the problem with COVID as an old person is that you can get separated from friends, family and relationships, so Encore Learning is another way to develop new relationships and friends. It's important in your senior years to have an outlet like that.”
Another volunteer, Julianne Wojay, a VCA and a member for four years, stated, “I just have to keep learning and expanding. It keeps people moving forward, the students are engaged, and they love learning, and you can see their brains grow instead of their brains getting smaller in retirement. They are blossoming, and I think that is the neatest thing, you see people blossom during the class. They come in and they know a little bit but with some of them you can see that it all starts clicking.”
When asked about what is the most impactful thing about Encore Learning as a program, Volunteer Elizabeth Hickey, who has been a member for just over a year said, “There are multiple places where I think Encore Learning effects change, the biggest example is the people that participate, its cutting edge information, its things that people wanted to pursue all their life, and now they have a chance to dive deeply. It’s an opportunity for the students to expand their minds and to learn, to engage in community, rather than staying at home. I also think it's a great opportunity for the teachers. I’ve heard a lot of instructors saying that they love the opportunity to share something close to their heart that they might not be able to share in their work.”
Consensus from the volunteers is that one of the best parts about volunteering is getting to know your classmates and instructors. You have the opportunity to form a bond and a friendship that is unique to sharing the same interests. While taking classes you want to learn more about or even topics you are knowledgeable in, you can meet people with similar interests, while also expanding your knowledge of that subject.
Michelle Trahan, a special events committee member who plans member tours, states, “It sometimes challenges me to do things I wouldn't do otherwise, I don't picture myself that extroverted so when I’m doing things for the committee, I sort of have to stretch myself. Encore Learning is a wonderful organization because it provides a venue for people to get out of their house, meet new people, and stretch their minds.”
Another volunteer Carol Fuller, VCA and member for eight years, shared, “You get exposed to things you wouldn't know a great deal about, even if you read the paper a lot, I now watch programs and read books and I have a whole different perspective on them.”
Volunteering doesn’t mean devoting all your free time, it can mean helping a neighbor or assisting someone in your class that might be struggling. Our survey of members indicated that 66% of respondents volunteer with other nonprofit organizations, 18% volunteer with political activities, 28% volunteer with a faith-based organization or church, 18% volunteer with a local government program, and 47% volunteer with Encore Learning. On average, volunteers spend around 10 hours per month volunteering with Encore Learning.
No matter how much time you have to give, it matters, and it makes a difference. You are a part of Encore Learning and our volunteers have helped make this past year amazing and we cannot wait to continue learning together, as a community.