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The Positive Power of Volunteerism by Laurie Benson

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Laurie Benson is Executive Director of the Nurses on Boards Coalition. Laurie’s career began as nurse and has evolved to include roles as a successful IT entrepreneur for 25 years, serving in diverse governance roles including public/private company and nonprofit boards, executive consultant and national nonprofit leader. She is a longtime AARP member and advocate.

One of my most memorable volunteer roles was my very first nonprofit board experience, serving on the Independent Living board in our local community. I was 30 years old when I was approached by the Branch Manager at IBM about the opportunity to serve. In his role as board chair, he was looking for a few new board members who would embrace the many opportunities available for older adults. I recognized and acted on this unique opportunity to provide support to older adults so they could live more independently, whether living in their own homes or in assisted living.

A guest speaker at one of our board meetings talked about setting appropriate expectations as we age. One example he shared was about the game of golf. While he encouraged older adults to golf and continue to engage in other passions, he stressed the importance of setting appropriate expectations. For example, it not realistic to expect the same golf score as one grows older. At that moment, I remember thinking, I can participate and contribute in life at any age, I just need to be mindful of how I measure success!

I made a personal commitment that day that I would actively engage in meaningful volunteer roles the rest of my life. There will be no self- imposed age limit for me to serve and contribute in new ways. Today, I am fortunate to work with nurse leaders across the country who volunteer in diverse roles in the communities where they live and work. It is an honor to work, together, to improve health for all in our country.

A few years ago, I was asked by the CEO of an assisted living facility to join her for a program honoring volunteers with over 10,000 hours of service. I requested to be seated at a table with residents, so I could get to know them. When I asked them to tell me about themselves, one shared he rides his incumbent bike 20 miles/day, another builds model trains, and another runs the gift shop. I found it interesting that no one talked about what they did earlier in their careers and lives. This experience inspired me to think about contributing TODAY and to live in the present, not to define ourselves by our past accomplishments.

I celebrate the positive power of volunteerism! With humility, yet boldness, volunteer leaders inspire me every day to take action to bring “what is possible” into the “now,” in a way that benefits and elevates everyone involved.

Each month we feature a story from the field about a VOCAB like you. We encourage you to complete this impact form so that we have a current record of the wide variety of roles our volunteers play on commissions and boards.

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