Martin Luther King’s birthday, observed today, is the only federal holiday set aside as a national day of service. We’re marking the day by celebrating ten Road Scholars who, by taking leadership roles in their communities, have gone “above and beyond” in their commitment to helping others. We take inspiration from our participants every day, but particularly today, as we recognize and thank all Road Scholars everywhere who volunteer their time in service to others. How are you observing Martin Luther King Day? What volunteer activity is most important to you?
Rick Ellinger, Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos, Calif. The Hiller Aviation Museum uses the glory of flight to inspire young people’s interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) and how the physical world works. Rick, a career technologist, believes passionately in scientific education, and says “if the kids can dream it, we should nurture it and kindle deeper interest.” Rick serves on the Museum’s Board of Directors and brings his business background to bear in helping with long-range planning.
Gail Rodd, Sierra Repertory Theatre, Sonora, Calif. The Sierra Rep’s mission is to make a vibrant contribution to the community with high-quality live theater while paying artists and staff a living wage. Gail, a biochemist by training, uses her facility with numbers to help the theater reconcile its accounts, while also serving on the Board of Trustees and using her web of friends and contacts in the community to attract new donors and volunteers to the organization. She’s also beginning a term as chair of the Theater Advisory Group, a group that supports the theater with fundraising and hands-on labor for special projects, like the recent renovation of a rehearsal space.
Doctor Suzanne Boulter, a pediatric and adolescent medicine practitioner in Concord, N.H. Dr. Boulter has dedicated her volunteer efforts to the cause of infant oral health. “Dentists are often uncomfortable seeing younger children,” she explained, and pediatricians are ideally suited to get kids started on a lifetime of healthy teeth. Dr. Boulter served as the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Oral Health Initiative, developing curricula to teach doctors how to communicate to parents the importance of diet, fluoridated water, and proper brushing technique. The Initiative received a grant from the ADA Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Dental Association, to “train the trainers” in every state, and Dr. Boulter gave presentations as part of the training session.
Debbie Weiner, DreamKeepers Project, Inc., Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. DreamKeepers provides financial and other support for nearby Oceanside’s Family Recovery Center, a residential and outpatient treatment program dedicated to assisting women recover from substance abuse while promoting healthy family reunification. The organization fills gaps in state funding, and has raised money for kitchen renovations, a toddler playground, programs to help clients prepare for job interviews, and other projects. Debbie, who has an MBA in finance and serves as board Secretary, says she’s “really in awe of these women. They work so very hard to complete the recovery program, often while going to school, holding jobs, and caring for their children. They realize that the program may be their last chance to keep their families together.” She also volunteers directly with clients, and especially enjoys accompanying women on the $300 shopping trip they’re awarded when they graduate from the program.
Bob Bolan, Nassau County Council on Aging, Fernandina Beach, Fla. The Nassau County Council on Aging provides a variety of services to older residents with a focus on fostering independent living and companionship. While not formally a member of the Council’s Board, Bob serves as its Secretary and brings long non-profit experience to bear serving as a Pro Bono Board Consultant on matters of board governance. Boards, Bob says, have a tendency to get into “the weeds” of non-profit management. Bob helps the board focus on mission critical activities such as fundraising to support the Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, the Adult Day Healthcare Center and other services.
Kay Wilkins, GLSEN-Downeast Maine Chapter, Ellsworth, Maine. Kay Wilkins taught English and special ed in high school and college before getting an MBA and making a career change to high tech, eventually retiring from IBM. Returning to Maine, with a renewed interest in education and a deep concern about the discriminatory treatment gay, lesbian and trans children often receive in schools, she began volunteering at the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Downeast Maine Chapter. To help GLSEN she leveraged both her management skills (“I know how to run a meeting!” says Kay) and her technology skills to help the organization get its files and records organized. She has also become a certified GLSEN trainer, and especially values events like the annual Rainbow Ball, where kids from all over a very rural state, who might be the only gay person in their high school, get together for fun and education in a safe environment. Kay also has leadership roles in her Unitarian Universalist church and the Hancock County Maine Democratic Committee.
Donna Raycraft, Granite United Way, Manchester, N.H. Donna serves on the Granite United Way’s Community Review Team for Merrimack County, a subcommittee of the Community Impact Committee, working to select United Way grant recipients in her area. Before she retired she served as executive director for two different non-profit organizations, one a family resource center and the other a rape and domestic violence crisis center. Having written many grant proposals in her professional career, she brings a valuable skill to her volunteer role as she helps her team evaluate grant requests submitted to United Way. “It’s hard to tell an organization they’re not getting funded,” says Donna. “But I’ve learned a lot about the community and it’s led me to other volunteer opportunities like our local hospice program.” At hospice, Donna teaches balance classes to older and frail people and facilitates bereavement groups. “I don’t have to write a budget,” she says. “It feeds my soul.”
Ellen Schollenberger, Friends of the A.K. Smiley Library, Redlands, Calif. Ellen Schollenberger manages the used book store at the Smiley Library, which raises $100,000 a year to support acquisitions, the library’s literacy program, and gifts of books for kids at the holidays. In this role she coordinates dozens of volunteers, from store clerks to former university librarians who comb through donated books for more valuable volumes to include in the store’s weekly online auction. “When I was director of nursing I had 100 employees,” Ellen said. “At the store it’s the same task of evaluating skills and putting volunteers in the right roles.” What does Ellen get out of it? “Lots of books,” she said. “I love to read.”
Pat Ernsberger, AAUW Marin (CA) Branch. Pat Ernsberger has served as president, board member, parliamentarian and bylaw chair of the Marin Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), bringing her skills as a lawyer to an organization with a charitable focus on helping girls advance in science and women return to school. Pat went back to school mid-career to get her law degree, working full time and attending law school at night. “I appreciate what people go through,” she says. “I get a lot of satisfaction helping women go back to school without having to work. They come back to our branch to tell us about how they’re doing and it’s very exciting.”
Brother Robert Hazard, La Salle Academy Community, Providence, R.I. Robert Hazard is one of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, a religious order founded in 1680 to bring religious instruction and education to poor children who often have little hope for the future. He taught American History, but also served on the board of Tides Family Services, an organization providing strength-based counseling, structured recreation, cognitive behavioral therapy, after-school programming and two schools for at-risk youth in the most distressed and poverty-stricken areas of Rhode Island. Brother Robert also volunteers at Dorcas Place in Providence, R.I., teaching English to immigrants. “I worked for four years in Guatemala where I saw a lot of people who were struggling,” he says. “I’m sympathetic to people who come here and want a better life, and to be able to do something to help them is very satisfying.”
All of these Road Scholars are making a difference, and we’re inspired by their commitment and dedication to improving society one life at a time. How are you using your skills to go “above and beyond” in a volunteer role? Tell us in the comment section below!