I think it 2004 when the Board of Women Leading Kentucky carved out its mission of creating opportunities for women to lead, learn, achieve and give back to the community.  We spent a lot of time discussing whether learning should come before leading, but that was due, mostly, to our affection for order and logic.

Then we realized that by shaping the mission the way we (finally) did, we were committing ourselves to a mission of lifelong learning.  You might already be a leader and there’s still a lot to learn.  The concept of achievement was a natural:  we wanted to encourage and support women in achieving their goals, their best selves.

When it came to giving back, the vote was unanimous.  Everyone on the board had a story to tell about the value of giving back, of paying forward in the community in which we lived.  Some were volunteers on community projects, others served on non-profit boards, still others mentored and tutored younger women.  Not only did it feel good, but it made a difference in the community and in individual lives.

When the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning issued a call for volunteer tutors last year, I got the word out in our e-newsletter, and nine women signed up to work with a child one hour per week, helping in areas of reading and math.  Many of these women called or emailed to tell me what a wonderful experience it was to get to know and help a child with schoolwork.

More research is showing that people with fewer social/community contacts have shorter life spans than people with wide social circles, regardless of race, income level or other lifestyle factors.  And if that isn’t reason enough to encourage us to give back to our communities, here are a few others.

  1. Gain a new perspective.  Life can be hard and when you’re feeling down, your problems can seem insurmountable. Volunteering can offer a new perspective—seeing people who are worse off than you are, yet still hanging in there, can help you see your life in a whole new light.
  2. When you volunteer, you realize just how much you are truly needed. Meeting people who need your help is a strong incentive to continue—people are depending on you. If you don’t do it, who will?

Research has shown that the good feelings you experience when helping others may be just as important to your health as exercise and a healthy diet. But it’s the smile from a child or thankful person that shows you’re really making a difference in someone’s life.  And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

p.s.  The Carnegie Center is once again needing volunteer tutors for an hour a week.  Here’s your chance.  (254-4175-ask for Carol)

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