She’s hooked on helping others

“CANDY STRIPERS” were established by the American Red Cross. Above is a scene from 1957. Andrea is not that old  (Wikipedia).

Hello, my name is Andrea and, I am addicted to volunteering. No, I do not have a problem. I LOVE volunteering. It is in my blood. Something I was born to do. I didn’t think it would become a full-time job, consuming most of my days. Thankfully, my husband has a full-time job to support my habit.

If you’ve ever volunteered, you know that it is a meaningful way to make an impact in your community. A welcome habit while doing something you love, supporting an organization and sharing your skills while discovering something new and exciting. You might think that volunteering is an activity for retired people, sort of a “rite of passage,” or an activity meant to keep you busy after working for so many years, but that is not entirely true. Volunteering is for every generation, young and old, not just for retirees. Although I will admit, having extra time is helpful.

I’ve spent most of my life volunteering, with my habit starting when I was in fifth grade. I volunteered to work in the school library and, immediately, I was addicted. Not because I loved to read, but because I loved helping the librarian. It made me feel useful. My job was to shelve the returned books and occasionally check out books to the students using a rubber date stamp and a book pocket check-out card. Back then, we did not use a computer to check out books; that job was done the old-fashioned way, by hand. If you’ve ever checked out books from the library, you’d remember this method.

A few years later, when I was 14, I became a “Candy Striper” at my neighborhood hospital. I know, here I go again, creating a frenzy of memories you may have forgotten. “Candy Striper” was a title given to teens who volunteered in a hospital. They were assigned duties intended to make the patient’s stay a bit more pleasant and help lessen the burden on the nurses, such as delivering mail and patient meals.

The title “Candy Striper” stemmed from the red-and-white striped pinafores, resembling candy canes, female volunteers wore over a white collared blouse. I was excited and proud to be a Candy Striper and couldn’t wait to put on that uniform. I was assigned to work in the maternity unit, where I had many jobs, including visiting and chatting with patients. As much as I enjoyed the jobs I was assigned, there was one job that made me feel uncomfortable – carrying warm urine specimens to the lab.

My discomfort with this job encouraged the nurses to wrap a paper towel around each container before sending me on my way, giggling at my uneasiness. Silly as it was, that small gesture allowed me to transport that warm container with ease and comfort.

While I didn’t always enjoy my assignments, I did enjoy my time as a Candy Striper. I was able to kick this habit for a brief period while in high school, but then shortly after graduation, I “fell off the wagon” when I was asked to chaperone a student body conference as an alumnus.

Since then and throughout the years, I have volunteered for many non-profit organizations, including the Lupus Foundation of Orange County, Good Beginnings at Cedars-Sinai, Lamp Lighter Guild of CHOC, Garden Grove Strawberry Festival Association, and the PTA, to name a few.

I could write about each organization and the incredible work they do, but I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I will share that, within each organization, I have met others struggling with the same addiction. Along the way, I have made friends, held leadership positions, organized events, ran board meetings, and worked alongside other volunteers.

Spending countless hours volunteering my time has allowed me the opportunity to make a difference. A habit I am proud of and not embarrassed to admit. So, if you find yourself with extra time on your hands, consider volunteering. Not only is it a meaningful way to help organizations in need it can also be a welcome habit, one that you may enjoy a little too much, like me. Hello, my name is Andrea, and I am a volunteer.

How can I HELP you?

“Am’s View” returns!

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