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Volunteering is inherent in the fabric of America. From Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia fire brigade to the early settlers who helped one another build houses and barns, people have relied on one another for support and assistance, often guaranteeing their survival. Whenever there is national conflict or natural disaster, volunteers are the first responders. Today, the scope of voluntarism has broadened, and we often don’t realize the vast number of people who are actively engaged and how their work structures many of our own lives.

But suppose nobody volunteered? The pace of daily life is often overwhelming. Suppose there was no one to coach the Little League team…think about the number of teams in one league, every team needing several coaches. The number of people actively engaged is enormous. Drive by a soccer or lacrosse field on a Sunday morning. How many volunteers can you count?

Suppose there were no Boy Scout or Girl Scout leaders? No field trips, no achievement badges, no cookies? Fire departments and ambulance companies rely almost exclusively on volunteers. What if no one came to the recruitment drive? Who would run blood drives? Train future guide dogs? Deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound elderly? There is not a day in the year that we don’t reap the benefits of someone who is volunteering—giving their time, talent, and care to someone or some cause simply because it needs to be done.

But what if nobody wanted to do that anymore?

Remember Hurricane Sandy? Thousands of our friends and neighbors reached out a hand for help—and someone was there to answer. It happens still, as homes are rebuilt, shops open for business and life goes on.

At the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, just as in most other healthcare facilities, volunteers provide the little “extras” that mean so much to patients. Whether it’s reading to a resident, leading a recreation program, or just visiting quietly, volunteers add quality time to the days of patients, and they are simply priceless to those who receive their attention. What if all those volunteers said no?

Fortunately, many people say “yes,” recognizing the many blessings they enjoy in life and letting that motivate them to share with others. So the next time you think “maybe I could help with that”….just do it! Choose the area that best fits your interests and time. Volunteer with a friend or family member. Make a call, make a commitment and know that you are part of a great American tradition.

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