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Service to others a good habit

January 24, 2012

The holidays are over, and predictions of global warming notwithstanding, the dog days of winter are upon us. For far too many people in our county, that’s not a pleasant prospect.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are solid reminders of those in need, but once they have passed it’s easy to forget that the need remains. It is appropriate that we rededicate ourselves to helping those in need this winter, in the shadow of the just-passed Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.

It was King who said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Indeed. Washington County is blessed to have a number of agencies, private and public, in place that do the heavy lifting for the needy on a daily basis. But they cannot do it without help from the rest of us, even if it’s an occasional donation of money or food. Many hands make light work.

But it is also true that it’s those with the least who often want to do the most. For those whose hearts might be larger than their savings accounts — and for all of us, really — there are many opportunities to volunteer.

But some who might want to volunteer are stopped because they don’t know where to go or to whom to talk. A mild speed bump, yes, but sometimes the gentlest push can set the ball in motion.

That’s why we especially appreciate the work of Volunteer Washington County, a self-described “one-stop source for volunteer information” in Washington County. The website www.volunteerwashingtoncountymd.org has two prominent buttons on its home page: “I want to volunteer” and “We need volunteers.” That’s about as easy as it gets.

Volunteer Washington County was involved in the county’s first MLK Day of Service, which was particularly successful in enlisting the help of youngsters. Service to our fellows is an excellent habit to develop at an early age.

Volunteer Washington County’s co-directors Bernadette Wagner and Roxanne Ober say the agency will serve 500 not-for-profit groups in Washington County. “The whole idea,” Wagner said, “is that everybody has something to offer.”

And now everyone has another avenue to help. Volunteering is not a requirement, it is an opportunity, and many volunteers will attest that they get more out of their work than do the people they serve. Next time you reach for the thermostat to turn up the heat, that’s a good message to remember.

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