RACINE — “Volunteering is empathy in action”. This was the theme for National Salvation Army Volunteer Week 2022, April 17-23. It affirms the strong link between volunteering and empathy. This human connection is at the heart of healthy individuals and strong communities.
April was Volunteer Appreciation Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the importance of volunteerism and honoring the important contributions that volunteers make by giving generously of their time and skills to worthy causes. Non-profit organizations would not exist without volunteers who give freely of their time and resources. Many schools and colleges have merged volunteerism into their required curriculum, requiring students to complete community service hours to graduate.
Families can volunteer together. Children observe their parents’ commitment to their community through their giving. Retired men and women also have a lot to offer as volunteers. They bring a lifetime of experience to their volunteer opportunity. They also have the luxury of time that younger families in the workforce do not have. Some companies offer their employees the opportunity to volunteer in their community during their working hours.
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The Racine Salvation Army is a vital volunteer-supported community organization that has served Racine for over 130 years.
Paid staff along with its essential volunteers maintain and expand the many services and programs of The Salvation Army. Currently, there are 14 “permanent” volunteers performing various tasks at the Food Pantry, the Kid’s Weekend Backpack Food Program and the Healthy Kids Diner. At Christmas time, the Red Kettle Drive and Toy Shop Drive involve hundreds of local volunteers. Last season, 473 people volunteered.
One of these volunteers, Jerome Lewis, represents this population, but much more. Lewis started helping the Salvation Army five years ago. Initially, he began volunteering with the SER program, a community service, workplace skills training program for mature adults. Jerome started helping out with the Salvation Army Seniors Restoration Program. He enjoyed serving and socializing with elders during their lunch, activities and fellowship. Due to his unsupervised alcoholism, resulting in some DUIs, he was sentenced to three months. The SER program brought Jerome back into their program, and the Salvation Army wanted him back too. Jerome’s enthusiastic volunteerism led him to a part-time job with the Salvation Army as a material handler and material handler.
Jerome’s desire to volunteer has extended to Racine County Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court, first as a participant, and now as a mentor. In May, the Wisconsin Treatment Court Association will present Jerome with its hero award for outstanding service to the drug and treatment court community. Jérôme is an exceptional volunteer who has found his redemption in giving to others what others have given him.
Although Jérôme may be an atypical volunteer, he has discovered the satisfaction of giving back and volunteering to help others. Salvation Army Volunteers embody a statement by Catherine Booth, the daughter of Salvation Army founder William Booth. “You are not here in the world for yourself. You were sent here for others.
The Salvation Army may call on additional volunteers to help support its community services and programs. For volunteer opportunities, go to saracine.org or call 262-632-3147.