Making a difference

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

April is a month that honor many efforts, including the battle against child abuse and animal cruelty.

It is also the month in which the volunteers of our communities are honored for their efforts in making our world a better place to live.

And as it turns out, you are never really too young or too old to volunteer your time and energies to others in need.

No generation gap

Sometimes, older and younger folks can both mutually benefit from volunteering.

Meet Salley Burkett. Burkett is a 17-year-old senior at Fort Dale Academy in Greenville.

&uot;I like to visit with the older people at the nursing home – hearing their stories is always so interesting and I learn a lot. And I think they enjoy having someone listen to them,&uot; Burkett explains, adding, &uot;I think you both get a lot out of the experience.&uot;

The teen would tell you, even in a small town, opportunities abound to help others near and far.

Burkett, who is active in her church, First Baptist of Greenville, enjoys participating in mission projects.

&uot;Every year we go on a missions trip, usually out of state, though last year we traveled to Gadsden. We’ve worked with different churches, helping build new structures, or working on ones in need of repair,&uot; says Burkett.

Close to home, Burkett has also helped fellow volunteers plant flowers in front of the Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Greenville.

As a Camellia Girl for the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, the teen works with area businesses to assist at open houses and other special events. &uot;I will also be working with Relay For Life in May at the fairgrounds,&uot; Burkett says.

Through Girl Scouting, she also helped re-do a room at the Greenville-Butler County Animal Shelter, one created especially for the feline population at the shelter.

&uot;We scraped old paint, re-painted and painted some murals on the walls. We got it all fixed up so the cats would have a special separate place to enjoy away from the dogs,&uot; Burkett explains.

But what she enjoys most in her volunteering experience, she says, are those visits to the nursing home.

&uot;It brings me a lot of joy. Volunteering teaches you that you are not the only person in the world,&uot; Burkett says.

&uot;There are people out there who have bigger problems than you do. I believe volunteering gives you a better perspective on life,&uot; the teen adds.

‘Volunteering is fun’

Tina Carter, a 16-year-old sophomore at Greenville High, also enjoys making a positive difference in her community.

&uot;I put in a lot of volunteer hours through the Key Club at school. We are involved in a lot of different activities,&uot; Carter says.

One of the many &uot;made-over&uot; rooms at the Greenville YMCA, that of the Greenville Kiwanis, was painted in part by Carter and her fellow club members.

The holidays are always a great time to give your time to helping others, Carter says.

&uot;Christmas is always a busy, busy time for us. We decorate the parade float and office for Safe Harbor every Christmas. And we do a lot of gift wrapping for the clubs,&uot; the teen says.

Just last week, Carter helped pack lunch boxes to be delivered for Safe Harbor’s annual fundraiser on Thursday.

The biggest event so far, Carter says, has been going to read to the kids at OCAP/HeadStart.

&uot;That is definitely my favorite project – it’s a lot of fun,&uot; Carter says.

Carter, who is already looking ahead to a career in forensics and law, believes volunteering has made a positive difference in her life.

&uot;I really think it has helped make me a better person than I was before,&uot; she says, adding, &uot;Volunteering is really fun. I guess you could say it’s like a hobby for me. And it’s something good to do to help keep me out of trouble.&uot;

From kids to seniors

In South Butler County, 15-year-old McKenzie High student Kathryn Sanford enjoys helping folks out of all ages. The teen volunteers to keep the children while the PTA members are working on projects at the school.

&uot;I also like to help the PTA with some of their projects, cleaning up around the school and other activities,&uot; she says.

Sanford works with the children at her church through youth choir.

The teen also assists in cleaning up the church cemetery &uot;because there are a lot of elderly people who aren’t able to get out there and do themselves.&uot;

She also helps cut grass for elderly people in the community.

Sanford says she particularly enjoys her work with the youth choir, and hopes to teach or work with children in some capacity after college.

&uot;I think volunteering has helped me develop leadership skills and be a positive influence on others. And it helps me feel needed. I guess you could say volunteering makes me feel good,&uot; the teen, who has been volunteering since age 12, says.

‘A great way to help community’

Even those with jobs, businesses and families can find time to volunteer. Ricky Cargile, known around town as &uot;The Terminix Man&uot;, gives several hours each month to help the Joseph Ministries, a non-profit organization that distributes non-perishable food items to the area needy each month.

Just last week, Cargile and several other volunteers were busy at the old South Butler County Rescue building in Greenville unloading a trailer full of groceries from the Montgomery Area Food Bank.

&uot;Pudding – we’ve got pudding,&uot; Cargile called out cheerily as he picked up a box filled with the dessert treat. He and his fellow volunteers laughed and joked as they emptied the trailer on a warm April morning. The food would be packed into more than 200 boxes to go into needy homes.

It’s a project that has become dear to Cargile’s heart.

&uot;I got started with this years ago when they were going around to churches and asking for volunteers,&uot; the Gravel Hill Baptist Church member says, adding, &uot;I felt like it would be a great way to help out the community.&uot;

A couple of hours each month, Cargile takes off work to help unload the trailer. &uot;I sometimes come back on that following Saturday and help with distributing the boxes,&uot; he says.

Many of his fellow volunteers are senior citizens, and while Cargile says he is happy to see them involved in the ministry, he would also love to see more young people with greater physical strength for the unloading job participate in the outreach.

&uot;It’s amazing to me to see how hard these seniors work. I can remember when we only had 30 or 40 boxes to prepare, and now it’s 216. It’s a challenge,&uot; Cargile comments.

As for Cargile’s own volunteer efforts, &uot;I just enjoy being able to do something to help folks out,&uot; he says.

‘I need to give back’

Seventy-five-year-old Vivian Killingsworth of Greenville has been volunteering for 10 years with the American Cancer Society – and she has no plans to retire any time soon.

The cancer survivor feels it is her mission to share with others battling the disease and help them and their families through what can be a

tough time.

&uot;I feel like the Lord saved me for a reason. I feel like I need to give back as much as I have received. So I am going to keep working with ACS as long as I am able,&uot; Killingsworth explains.

The active senior helps organize the annual Survivor’s Luncheon each year prior to Relay For Life in the county.

She also visits in the homes and hospital rooms of those newly diagnosed with the disease to talk with them and let them know, &uot;I do understand what you are going through.&uot;

One day, Killingsworth says she knows she will have to give up her volunteer activities but has no cut-off date in mind.

&uot;As long as I feel well enough to do it and keep enjoying like I do – I will keep on. I find it’s really good therapy,&uot; she says.