While volunteer work in itself provides the reward to those willing and able to offer their time and expertise to their community, it’s always heartwarming to take a moment and talk to those people about why they give back. From retired teachers to working parents, business leaders and young, big-hearted community members, we are thankful to know so many who share their time here in Asheville and Buncombe County. With National Volunteer Week being celebrated this April, we took a moment to sit down with a few of the volunteers we’ve connected with over the past two weeks and ask them why they volunteer and how they feel it makes a difference in the community. Here’s what they had to say:
You Get so Much Back when You Give...
1. Barbara Groome, a retired teacher who grew up in the Reynolds community and graduated from UNC Asheville then spent many years teaching at Asheville Middle School, now spends a half day volunteering each week creating lesson plans, laminating, and grading papers. Groome and her husband have been active donors to United Way since the mid-70s, and were recognized for their outstanding volunteer service in 2014 with the Tocqueville Award. “You get so much back when you give. That’s the old adage, but you really do. There are a lot of people who need love and attention and for retirees who have had experiences in the world, whether you work or don’t work, you have experiences that you can share, and give to them. You can teach kids to sew in an after-school program, help your neighbors with their kids.” She goes on, shaking her head, “I’m sick and sad about what’s happening with our police and in our African American communities and in our schools. Almost every day something terrible is happening, but I believe in young people. I really do. I have such gratitude to them for having the guts to speak up. They speak way more than any of those people in Washington. I just admire and respect them so much. I’m so proud of them and we’re raising kids like that in this community too.”
Two Men On A Mission...
2. Richard Bowman, pictured below on the left, a native to Asheville, retired with 30+ years of service as an administrator in the public school system, has spent an hour each week for the past 22 years mentoring young men from middle school to high school. “The reason I give back in this way is because I retired 22 years ago and I know that people need to come in and fill the position as people retire and those people have to come from our schools. Living here in Asheville, I look at all the construction, especially Mission Hospital ,all the buildings they’re building, and I know that sooner or later those buildings are going to be completed and someone is going to need to go in there and occupy those buildings. They’re going to need different skills and where do we get them from? The only place I can think to get them from is our young people here in school. I feel that I have a responsibility to assist in any way that I can to help them succeed. I look at the budget and money being spent on education and feel it’s way less than it should be. So I think that I can donate my little time as I long as I’m physically able to do so and help these students along their way. They’re too smart. There’s an old saying from the American Negro College Fund, ‘A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste’ and I concur one hundred percent.
3. Larry McCallum, also pictured below on the right, a teacher and administrator in Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools for 42 years, has been retired for six years and mentors young men alongside Richard Bowman in five schools here in Western North Carolina. He shares, “As we have gone through the years and why we’ve accumulated so many years is because as we see a need, there are always new needs occurring because we see a different group of students each year, with some beginning in the sixth grade. As we get new groups each year, there are groups behind them and some of their current issues have not gone away and for some the issues have increased. As volunteers in our community, understanding this, we take situations where things have gone positive as a success yet also understand that there are needs out there that we have not met. We can only do what we can in the time that we have. We feel it’s too great for us not to.”
4. Mishelle & Gary Allen, a husband and wife with two sons at Erwin Middle, share why they have been active volunteers at the weekly Homework Diners. “We’re very civic minded,” she shares. “We don’t do well just sitting around. Our boys joined Cub Scouts years ago and we decided to dig in. If I’m going to be here, I’d rather be doing something beneficial than just letting time drag by so being a parent volunteer lets us do that. I think that it has really helped us overall as a family that we are involved too, rather than just sitting on the sidelines.”
Do you want to get involved? Find upcoming opportunties to lend a helping hand in our community!