Don’t be a turkey; volunteer, give or advocate today

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesThanksgiving time often brings out the generosity in so many of us. But one of the hardest tasks I face in my role in town is how to encourage folks to sustain the holiday spirit of giving, advocating and volunteering all year long.

As in times of tragedies, the holidays also motivate many of us to respond immediately to help meet critical needs. And while that spirit of community and generosity is always amazing to see, I still need to remind myself and others that our local needs last all year and unfortunately don’t go away after the holidays.

So you may be asking, what can one do to help?

Well, I have always felt that time and love are the most valuable gifts one can give. It’s the truly human interaction that makes a difference. Although a one-time service project can have a big impact, it’s hard to build a relationship during a short-term special effort.

With the spirit of Thanksgiving buzzing in the air, if you haven’t already, find an organization whose cause is one that you’re passionate about. Make a personal pledge to give of yourself on a consistent basis. When you get involved and stay involved, for example, with such programs as Reading Champions, your value multiplies greatly.

The Reading Champions program succeeds because of the ongoing commitment of its tutors and the relationships that solidify between the adult and the student. Our volunteer tutors deserve all the credit for building confident, fluent readers; they do this patiently over an extended period of many months.

There also is always a need for more positive role models, and I strive to be sure whenever possible to connect volunteers to agencies where our young people could benefit from their time. Informal mentors can make a big difference by coaching, speaking, teaching a skill, or sharing their personal experiences, gifts or talents. Local nonprofits where volunteers make a big difference in the life of a child include agencies such as Family Centers, the YMCA, the YWCA, Kids in Crisis, Community Centers Inc., and the Boys & Girls Club. And those are just to name a few.

All run extraordinary programs for children and families and would greatly benefit from a caring adult’s talents and time, from being a reader in a preschool class to after-school homework helper.

To explore what organization might be a good fit for you, contact the Volunteer Center of Southwestern County. This excellent volunteer matchmaker may be found online at Uwwesternct.org/volunteer-stamford.

Of course, another huge resource in the Greenwich community is Community Answers, which is now part of the Greenwich United Way. There is no better way to get connected locally; for more information, contact Community Answers at 203-622-7979 or Communityanswers.org/.

With budget constraints all around, more families than ever are pinched by food stamp cuts, and we have, in fact, felt the impacts here in Greenwich. One of the best ways to help ensure the supply of food is adequate is to donate food or funds to Neighbor to Neighbor in Greenwich, N-to-n.org. There also are numerous ways, through a variety of nonprofits, to “adopt” a needy family and buy holiday gifts, including through the Department of Social Services and our very own Junior United Way.

Many times, giving a little one a toy he or she had particularly wanted or providing new warm clothes during the holidays can be life-changing.

The Greenwich United Way supports dozens of critical local organizations. Because the United Way supports multiple agencies, a gift to the Greenwich United Way would have greatest impact meeting local community needs. Its motto, “LIVE United,” speaks to the spirit I hope will overtake us all this season and all the seasons of the new year.

If you would like more information on how to get better connected in Greenwich, to give, advocate or volunteer, please reach out to me anytime. A little bit of time and love goes a very long way.

 

Jenny Byxbee is the Greenwich youth services coordinator. She may be reached at 203-869-2221 or [email protected]

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