Saturday, November 28, 2009

To live is to give: People find joy, purpose as volunteers

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

It's the season to give.
All of us know that. December is near, and so is the time to start piling presents under the tree.
But for several people in the community, "the season to give" didn't just get here.
"It's been here all along," said Charles Taylor of Temple. "The time to give is here and now, no matter what the calendar says."
He's talking about the kind of gift that comes from the heart, not a store.
"You do what you can to help who you can," he said.
Taylor is a long-time volunteer for one of Temple's food banks, Churches Touching Lives for Christ. He works one of the desks in the welcome area.
"I see clients and write them vouchers for food, clothing and household items," Taylor said. "I make sure everyone leaves with a list of all the help agencies in the area, and then I offer them a Bible and if they want to pray, I pray with them."
He's been doing this for 15 years.
"Every week, twice a week," Taylor said. "There might be a day when I don't feel like getting out of the house to head over here, but by the time I step through the door, I am so glad I came."
The retired English professor finds joy in his work at CTLC.
"Coming here answers a big question of scripture," Taylor said. "Am I brother's keeper? Yes, I am."
He smiled as he spoke.
"I don't want to be doing nothing, sitting around useless," Taylor said.
Neither did Vivian Kelley of Temple, another CTLC volunteer.
"I didn't have anything to do," Ms. Kelley said. "I prayed to God to use me somewhere, and a week later (Cynthia Russell, CTLC director) called me and said she had a desperate need for help at the pantry."
Since that phone call seven years ago, Ms. Kelley has been a part-time volunteer. And since May of 2008, she's been a full-time volunteer.
"I am drawn to this place," Ms. Kelley said.
Fellow volunteer Dr. Chris Ballard of Belton agreed.
"Once you come you're hooked," said Dr. Ballard
,a professor in the graduate counseling program at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
She volunteers once a week to counsel food pantry clients who are in need of advice and emotional support.
"It was my students to brought my attention to CTLC," Dr. Ballard said. "They spoke glowingly of the place, and I had to come check it out. They were right about how wonderful it is."
Volunteers like these help CTLC fulfill its mission.
"This place would not run without them," Ms. Russell said. "They're the only thing that keeps this place going. It truly is a community effort."
That statement is true for countless places in Temple, and every other community in the world, from church aid societies and parent-teacher organizations to literacy tutors and Red Cross groups.
"Sometimes what's needed the most is easy," said Linda Paulsen, director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Temple. "Like coming to visit new mothers in the hospital, and helping to enroll their babies for immunizations."
Or playing with children.
That's how UMHB junior Mark Miller likes to volunteer. He participates in UMHB's outreach project for Hope for the Hungry, an international ministry that supports orphanages in India and Haiti.
"We go over to low-income apartments and play with the kids there," Miller said. "We play hop skotch, jump rope and frisbee. Afterwards, we have a Bible study."
That playtime affords the kids' parents some down-time after work.
"They can take a break for a while, and the kids get to have fun," Miller said. "I like it because it's a good break from the stresses of the week."
He started volunteering with the group in the second semester of his first year of college.
"I was blessed to get a lot of nice Christmas gifts that year, and when I came back, I realized I wasn't giving anything back," Miller said.
He looked to the Bible for inspiration.
"Jesus is specific about how he wants us to relate to other people and care for them," Miller said. "So I looked for what I could do."
He didn't have to look very hard.
"There's always somebody who needs something," he said.
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Where to volunteer? Here are just a few of the many places to volunteer in Bell County.
-- The Retired Senior Volunteer Program has several opportunities. Call Linda Paulsen at 773-0221.
-- The American Red Cross Heart of Texas Area Chapter needs volunteers to respond to local disasters and emergencies. Training will be provided at no cost to the participants. Call 776-8362.
-- The Central Texas Support Teams for Family Caregivers are looking for volunteers to become a part of their team. Call 770-2339.

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