By Charlene Hunter James
The spirit of volunteerism in the African-American community has long been rooted in a culture of taking care of each other and of the community at large. By pitching in to take care of a friend or family member, volunteering at church, advocating for civil rights or helping promote scholarship and educational enrichment programs, we have all become stronger through volunteering.
Church participation and social involvement are important predictors of volunteerism within the African-American community. The church provides an avenue for determining needs in the community. Many well-known organizations in the African-American community have a long-standing record of service and advocacy, including the NAACP, the National Urban League and many prestigious fraternities and sororities. There are countless volunteers, whose names you may not know, giving their time and talents for the betterment of the community and society each day.
One such Texan is Houston octogenarian Charlotte Kelly Bryant, who knows how important it is to give back to her community. Since retiring from teaching in 2002, she has continued to serve by volunteering for her church, community fundraisers and the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Association, Inc. in Houston’s Third Ward, which was originally founded as a place where women and girls of color could come together to learn.
“I volunteer because my passion to serve is greater than anything else,” said the former teacher at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions. “God has given me good health and the ability to give back.”
Volunteering may also be helping to keep Bryant healthy and active. Studies show it’s good for your health and can even decrease anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation, especially in volunteers who devote at least 100 hours annually.
One of the best things about volunteering is that anyone can contribute. Everyone’s experiences and talents can create meaningful changes in their communities.
“It’s not a glitzy job, but it makes you feel great knowing you have made a difference in the lives of so many people,” said Bryant.
Bryant, like many who have come before her, is revered by those she has served and continues to serve. So next time you feel like you have nothing to do, why not share your skills and your passion with others through volunteering? It’s good for you, and the clear payoff is also the social good you have done. Chances are you will find the experience rewarding.
Charlene Hunter James is the AARP Texas all-volunteer Executive Council President.