Friday, August 5, 2011

Thank goodness for volunteerism.

I spent much of last week as a volunteer scorekeeper at the Bank of the West Classic, a professional tennis tournament held every summer at Stanford University.  I was one of about two hundred unpaid tennis lovers who acted as ushers, sold programs, directed fans around the grounds and, as in my case, logged extensive data on each ball struck by the players.  Add to that hundreds of ball kids who were also volunteering.  It was great fun and I had the privilege of meeting several of the players, including Maria Kirilenko (career high singles ranking of 18).

Meeting Maria Kirilenko at Stanford.
Among the many parts of this experience that fascinated me was how many of the volunteers had a deep knowledge of players who are hardly household names.  As I watched Sharon Fichman, I understood why.  Like the volunteers, she toils in anonymity, rewarded mainly by her own love of the game.  She practiced hard, played hard and gave it everything – but failed to qualify for the main draw in singles.

Sharon Fichman brought her spirited game and 289 Twitter followers (Serena Williams has over 2.1 million) to Stanford.
More important than the tennis was the reminder that volunteerism is the backbone of many American systems we sometimes take for granted. estimates that there are over 60 million volunteers per year in America.  Underfunded schools rely on parent volunteers.  Volunteers staff soup kitchens, homeless shelters and YMCA tutoring programs.  Our entire system of democracy counts on volunteers at the voting stations!

The whole experience made me thankful that there are so many opportunities to get involved and so many passionate people who do just that.


Unknown said...

I am into volunteering as well and I manage volunteers now. It is true that you can enjoy a lot of benefits and privileges. but the best part of it is that everything is free.

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