Investing my personal time as an American Camp Association volunteer has always been fun and rewarding for me throughout my career as a camp professional. I remember well the day — over 25 years ago — when I first raised my hand to help on a local ACA committee. It was towards the end of the regional conference that I was attending as a relative ACA newcomer. A handful of western North Carolina camp professionals had gathered for a "district" meeting and we had recently learned that we were slated to host the next year's conference. Our district chair asked who would be willing to volunteer to be a part of the conference's committee. My then new friend, Jude Bevan, and I looked at each other, smiled, and raised our hands — "all in" to help in whatever ways we could and without a clue as to where this first step in volunteering would lead us. Little did we know that it was the start of decades of adventurous and collegial fun and friendship in a multitude of ACA volunteer roles. Today Jude is a treasured, lifelong friend — family, really — and we continue to happily serve others together through ACA. I feel so much gratitude for each ACA volunteer experience I have had the opportunity to take on.
For over 106 years ACA has been a volunteer-led, grass-roots, nonprofit organization focused on enriching lives through professional, high-quality camp experiences. Today the association is poised to grow rapidly. To successfully achieve our desired outcomes, we need the help of many more volunteers than ever before. We need more standards visitors; trainers; peer educators; peer mentors; conference volunteers; advocacy volunteers; writers, speakers, photographers, and other communications volunteers; local council organizers; and more.
Here in the ACA national headquarters, staff are working to roll out fresh features in our new online cloud community, ACA Connect, which will make it easier for camp professionals to sign up to volunteer in more ways. ACA Connect supports robust volunteer recruitment, training, communication, and recognition, and we are excited to implement these features to ensure that we are doing our best to offer and support enriching and diverse volunteer experiences. Soon you'll be able to click on posted ACA volunteer opportunities in ACA Connect to sign up for new opportunities as they become available. It is as simple as logging into ACA Connect and clicking a link.
The benefits of volunteering are many. I recently read a scientific article in Psychology Today, which reflects on the numerous reasons why the rewards from volunteering far outweigh the time you invest (Carr, 2014). Research shows that active volunteers live longer, healthier lives. I have also read that volunteering is more beneficial than exercising and eating well. There are other tremendous benefits from lifelong commitment to volunteerism too, especially the friendships and professional relationships that offer lasting dividends. There is no substitute for the very strong ACA peer network I have developed throughout my career. Volunteering has introduced me to thousands of professional colleagues, and it helps me pay attention to the ways the industry is changing and makes me feel purposeful and altruistic. I have learned that the more time you contribute to the community as a volunteer, the deeper the friendships and more rewarding the experiences become.
Thank you for all of your volunteer leadership for ACA and for all you are doing to help recruit even more camp professionals to volunteer opportunities at the association. Exciting days are ahead!
Carr, D. (2014, March 12). 5 reasons why you should volunteer. Psychology Today. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com/blog/the-third-age/201403/5-reasons-why-you-should-volunteer