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8607 Roberts Drive, Suite 150 Sandy Springs, GA 30350-2237

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8607 Roberts Drive, Suite 150 Sandy Springs, GA 30350-2237


Volunteering: A Personal Story

Published December 12, 2013


By: Robert H. Gillespie, LMSW, Social Worker

June of 1989 was my first experience with volunteering.  In May of that year I completed middle school and was anxiously looking forward to beginning high school in the fall.  As with most soon-to-be 14 year old boys, I was filled with anxiety about starting a new school.  To make matters worse I was facing an entire summer of sitting around my house worried about the upcoming change.  After a couple of weeks of anxious boredom, my stepmother, a registered nurse, suggested I volunteer with a local agency helping children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Jumping at the chance to get out of the house, I decided to follow my stepmother’s advice and volunteer.  Admittedly I initially volunteered as a way to escape a monotonous summer and possibly meet new friends, but as the summer days passed, I began to look forward to the actual work and not simply socializing. I began to realize many of the “clients” were kids around my age whose daily life was drastically different from mine.  This was truly eye-opening. Of course it was fun being around other teen volunteers my age as well and I made a few friends that were already in high school reducing my foreboding doom of starting high school. However, the largest and most enduring impact was experiencing and learning that I can have an impact on the well-being of those around me by even small acts of giving.

As the summer drew to a close I began to look forward to starting school.  Although at the time I was not acutely aware of my internal change brought about by volunteering, I was on a new course in a life devoted to human service.  I became more interested in the daily lives and functioning of others and how their functioning was impacted by issues beyond their control as well as their environment. When future volunteer opportunities arose in high school and college, I embraced these opportunities with vigor; hungry to learn how various situations impact people and their functioning within their environments.  Armed with a wealth of eye-opening volunteer experiences, I knew I wanted to channel my desire to serve others thus leading to choosing a challenging and rewarding career in social work, which I truly believe I would not have chosen without my volunteer experience.