September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - May 2005

Volunteering is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is giving, not taking, contributing, not counting.

2004-2005 ASSE President Gene Barfield, CSP

The Power and Value of Volunteering

At a recent ASSE speaking engagement, I met with an old friend and colleague. As we were catching up, he spoke of his family and work activities, and I mentioned my involvement with ASSE as well as other professional, civic and religious associations. After hearing my comments, he asked an important question: "Why do you spend so much time volunteering? You have a full plate just with ASSE duties."

Later, I reflected on the many hours away from home and the time spent organizing and preparing materials for the organizations I serve. I pondered the value of my energy and time, and realized the answer to my friend's question is simple: Volunteering has improved my quality of life.

First, let's define volunteering. Volunteering is working with others to make a meaningful contribution to better a community or organization. People volunteer for endless reasons. Many want to gain experience, acquire new skills, meet new people or expand their network of professional contacts. Others simply want to give back to the community, support a cause or charity, help a friend or promote a worthwhile activity. They volunteer because it feels good-what I describe as a private smile.

I volunteer in professional associations because I believe in the power of mentoring and sharing my skills and experiences. I enjoy watching a person benefit from my contributions. I volunteer to influence the growth of an organization. I also enjoy the ability to tap into the experience of others. I have learned from volunteering that you are usually repaid tenfold for your efforts.

Volunteering is not about money. The purpose of volunteer work is not to replace paid labor. If volunteering were about money that would suggest that unpaid work is not valuable. It reduces volunteerism to hours worked instead of contributions made. Placing a dollar amount on the value of volunteerism cheapens the concept. Volunteering is about the joy you receive when kids excel in a sport, when shelters are created for the homeless, when aid is given to seniors or when you help a neighbor clear tree limbs from their yard after a hurricane or major storm. These large and small acts, given freely, are what bind communities together. Volunteering is giving, not taking, contributing, not counting.

The value of volunteering is much deeper, more fulfilling and much more important in sustaining a healthy and vibrant community or organization than money can achieve. How can we put a monetary value on ordinary people doing extraordinary things?

What activities or efforts have you contributed to in order to give back to others lately? An excellent place to start your career as a professional volunteer is at a local ASSE meeting. Step up to the challenge and give back some of the skills and experiences that you have worked so hard to gain in your career. Give to others and experience the gifts that will be made available to you in return.

"Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts." -Albert Einstein

Gene Barfield, CSP