My parents and I recently attended a National Philanthropy Day breakfast with a group of staff from Turnstone, our local center for people with disabilities and their families. I’ve been a client at Turnstone since I was 3 years old, and I have started volunteering there in the last few years.
One area in which I’m involved is fundraising. My role consists of serving on event-planning committees, organizing auctions and raffles, and helping to set up for each event.
A few weeks ago, some of the ladies with whom I closely collaborate on these projects invited us to join them for a breakfast event. They told me about the awards and that they had nominated me for Volunteer of the Year.
After they had asked me to come by their office, a couple of different scenarios played out in my head, but an award nomination was not one of them. By the time I arrived, I had decided that the meeting had something to do with an upcoming fundraiser. So it was an extremely welcome surprise.
That’s how I found myself sitting around a table having a conversation with several of Turnstone’s top executives very early in the morning. I have never been an early riser, but I still enjoyed spending my morning in such wonderful company.
As we chatted, I flipped through the program containing information about the nominees in each category. I was touched when I came across the one my friends had written about me. They had included details about my various volunteer roles, my positive and determined attitude and unwavering desire to find ways to help others. They even added a mention of this column. I was overwhelmed at the thought and care that they had put into it.
We finished our food just as the event began. During the awards portion of the morning, the speaker asked all of the nominees to stand when they heard their names. I quietly laughed along with several others with whom I was sitting. As you can imagine, I remained seated.
Though I didn’t win Volunteer of the Year, I had a fantastic time and survived my early start — quite an accomplishment in my world. I can’t recall another morning that I got out of bed at that hour, not even for a medical appointment.
Before we left, Turnstone’s CEO came over to me and said, “You’re still our winner.” I believe that his comment had a lot of truth in it. I didn’t win a trophy, but I was given something far more meaningful to me.
Instead, I have the appreciation, support, and recognition of my amazing team.
In the short time that I have been collaborating with these ladies, I have learned more about organizing events, I’ve grown as a leader, and have made new and treasured friendships.
We pour our hearts and souls into each fundraiser. And I am filled with joy and gratitude to know that they recognize my efforts.
Having the friendship and support of people I admire is better than any award I could have received. Getting to help them with these fundraisers is genuinely a privilege, and I don’t need trophies or medals to tell me that I am a part of something special.
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