What makes Santa Maria great? Ask any of the locals, and an answer you’ll often here is “the people”. We have so many kind-hearted and generous members of our local community, and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce was thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize some of those people, their impact on the community and the nonprofits they serve, at this year’s annual Salute to Volunteer Lunch.
“From giving a kid a “high five” for making an A on a test to spearheading the organization’s annual golf tournament…our volunteers fulfill a critical role in the achievement of our goals and objectives,” said Jeremy L. Deming, Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley.
Deming explained that outside of personal fulfillment for satisfying a need in the community, their volunteers also obtain a sense of belonging. “Working with like-minded individuals who are passionate about youth development creates a family-like atmosphere,” he said. “Our volunteers work together, play together, and share experiences that will last a lifetime. They support each other as much as they support our youth members.”
Mandy Ebert, Volunteer/Hotline Coordinator for the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center, agrees that volunteers for their organization get just as much out of the experience as the people they assist. And often, the people the volunteers help end up becoming volunteers themselves.
“When people volunteer with our organization they are helping victims turn into survivors,” Ebert explained.
“Nothing beats the feeling you get when a survivor says “Thank you” after you helped them through one of the most traumatic times of their lives. Those survivors many times will come back and help us or other organizations as a volunteer as a way to give back for the services they received.”
Many local nonprofits simply wouldn’t be able to stay up and running without the efforts of their volunteers. Such is the case for Special Olympics Southern California, Northern Santa Barbara County.
“Our Special Olympics program would not be able to operate without the countless hours NSB Special Olympics Volunteers put in,” said Nicolas J. Chavez, Operations Coordinator for Special Olympics Southern California, Northern Santa Barbara County. Chavez explained that the Northern Santa Barbara Special Olympics volunteers put in around 1,800 plus hours a season.
Volunteer efforts don’t just benefit the people, organizations and communities served – they can also benefit local business.
City of Santa Maria councilmember and Chief Financial Officer for the Good Samaritan Shelter Jack Boysen spoke at the day’s event on the importance of local businesses encouraging their employees to volunteer. Boysen explained that the environment of being on equal ground in volunteer organizations can be positive for employees, as the chain of command differs from the work environment these people are used to.
“Being in a volunteer environment with coworkers away from the office can increase productivity in the workplace,” Boysen said. “The unique opportunities many non-profits provide their volunteers can help promote leadership skills for those who don’t normally have leadership positions.”
Boysen, who has spent years volunteering with the Good Samaritan Shelter, encourages everyone to find an organization to volunteer where they feel they can give the most to the local community.
“I am very fortunate that I have found a nonprofit that can utilize my skills and maximize my contribution,” he said. “I truly hope each and every person in this room finds their “Good Sam”- an organization that can use your skill set, and gives you that sense of give back that’s so important to your well being.”