LEWISTOWN - The volunteer organization of Mifflin County Communities That Care is a prime example of people getting involved to better the community. Since Mifflin County CTC was formed 14 years ago, we have had many people volunteer for us in one capacity or another, averaging 1,234 volunteer hours per year. Only through this support has CTC survived through the years. People who get involved are the reason non-profit organizations survive.
In a recent radio interview with CTC volunteers, Juniata Faith Factor host Rev. Charlie Stump asked volunteer Bernie Zook, warden of the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, why he got involved with our Faith Based Initiatives Action Team.
"Anytime you can do anything positive for our children and be an encouragement to them, it is always a good thing," Bernie replied. "I initially got involved because of the drug problem in our area, and I was of the opinion that we're never going to arrest our way out of the problem. The real key is to prevent people from getting started, and I think that is where we need to spend our efforts."
Photo submitted by NANCY RECORDS
Volunteer D’Ann Foust Mowery, left, serves popcorn to a movie-goer during the 2012 Mifflin County Community Night.
It is easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed by all the negative news that surrounds us. It is easy to complain about what is going on, but the challenge is to join the many who are making a positive difference in the community.
CTC has been fortunate to attract volunteers who have a desire to be part of positive change - part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.
At our last coalition meeting, I asked volunteers around the table to share why they volunteered for CTC. One person replied, "I enjoy the people I've met through CTC."
This made me think of the many times during meetings and activities when we've enjoyed laughs and the times after a meeting when volunteers catch up with each other and share stories. They recognize that they've had the pleasure of meeting people they never would have met if they hadn't gotten involved.
Another volunteer said, "I believe in serving others." I can vouch for the fact that those who volunteer report feeling more satisfied and happier with their own lives. There is actually research that supports this.
A third volunteer said, "I began volunteering for CTC because I thought it was a good way to learn more about my community. I continue to volunteer because I continue to learn." Another volunteer said, "It is good to work along-side people who have the same hopes and concerns for their community."
People who want to make a difference are not alone, but if you are not involved, it's easy to think no one else cares.
And I'll share one last quote from a volunteer about why they get involved: "I have a responsibility to the community I live in to support and grow what is positive for youth, contributing to their well-being. Healthy and well-adjusted youth contribute not only to individual, but to community wellness."
According to the Mifflin County Youth Survey, the work volunteered by CTC pays off. From 2000 to 2011, 13 out of the 21 risk factors have decreased or held steady, and seven of the nine protective factors have been strengthened. There also has been a 14 percent decrease in underage drinking and a 12 percent decrease in underage binge drinking.
The volunteers that make this positive change possible are honored every year at the CTC annual meeting. The Volunteers of the Year recognized at our 2013 meeting were: Father Bill Weary, Denise Deamer, Dawn Hayes, Steve Schaaf, Allison Fisher, Karin Knode and Hillary Benny.
Mifflin County CTC is always looking for new action team members. We seek people with a desire to help make Mifflin County a better place for our youth and their families. People can get involved by popping popcorn at Community Movie Night, distributing flyers about an event, keeping the website up-to-date, making videos about our work and more.
I encourage anyone interested in volunteering with Mifflin County Communities That Care to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first step is to set up an introduction meeting to determine the best use of each volunteer's talent and interest. It's important that a volunteer have a good fit and feel fulfilled by their volunteer activities.