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Who Will Volunteer?

Who can help? Who wants to? Who has time? Hearing these questions, I’ve turned away. Ducked my head. Avoided eye contact. But other times, I’ve raised my hand. Committed to a time and place. Completed the assignment.

            My first volunteer work was before I knew what I was doing was volunteering. When the pianist of my small church went away to college, there was no one to play the piano. Except my cousin and me, neither accomplished pianists and both young teenagers, but we were willing, so we alternated weekly during our high school years.

On the Sundays I played, the song selection was limited. The song leader chose songs written in the key of C or with no more than two sharps or four flats and a song I knew. I carried away two things from that teen-age experience. It felt good to play a role in my church. To serve and not be paid. And church members often said thank you and encouraged me.

Through the years, I’ve taken on volunteer jobs. Visited senior citizens in retirement homes. Served as advisor to my college sorority. Read with and tutored young students. Taught 4th grade Sunday school. Delivered meals to shut-ins. Served on community boards. Helped out during the high school state football championship games. Picked up litter.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four Tennesseans volunteered in 2015. Many organizations depend on volunteers, but does the experience help the volunteer? According to an article in Psychology Today, there are five benefits. Volunteers live longer and are healthier. Volunteering establishes strong relationships. Volunteering is good for your career. Volunteering is good for society. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. And I’d add, it’s fun.

People in our community volunteer as evidenced recently by the clean up after May’s wind damage and the rescue of those stranded at Cummins Falls. Volunteers are committed to making their community better and helping others. A listing of almost 400 organizations popped up when I googled volunteer opportunities in Putnam County, Tennessee. We can choose our volunteer jobs.

My next one is at the Putnam County Fair. When I learned that the fair needed volunteers, I signed up. To welcome visitors, offer help, and be an ambassador for Putnam County. No experience is necessary. Just a smile and willing attitude. An opportunity to be a part of a ten-day event where 52,000 people walked through the gates last year.

You can volunteer at the fair, too. Email info@putnamcountyfair.org and give your mailing address and telephone number. (And check out the website: putnamcountyfair.org) Each volunteer will receive a ten-day pass for the event. Volunteers are needed for most evenings. Some for three hours, some five.

When I was 14 and played “In the Garden” on the church’s upright piano, I didn’t know I was beginning a way of life that would span decades and lead to directing Putnam County Fair visitors to the nearest bathroom.

If you aren’t a volunteer, try it. You get more than you give.

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Wait ’til Next Year’s Fair

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We were stuck.  Front bumper against the railing.  Cars whizzed past.  I turned the steering wheel.  Our car didn’t move.  A yellow car bumped ours.  My four-year-old Grand held on for dear life.  “Ruth, help me turn the wheel,” I said.  Her blue eyes opened wider as she gripped the metal bar in front of her even tighter.  Three cars bumped ours as they went past.

I looked toward the man in the red vest.  The man leaning against the side of the bumper car track and who’d mumbled, “Put your arms in a strap,” as he lower a round metal bar over mine and Ruth’s heads.  I made eye contact with the red-vested man and threw up my hands in despair.  “PUSH THE PEDAL!” he shouted.  My feet were scrunched under my twisted legs on the left side of the bumper car, far from the pedal on the right side.  The pedal, under the steering wheel and a long leg length in front of Ruth’s short legs.

Husband and I took our three oldest Grands – ages 4, 6, and 8 – to the county fair.  I’d given each Grand some money to spend however they wanted.  We walked through the arts and crafts building and checked out the petting zoo.  “Now, can we go see the rides?”  Asked Lou, age 6.  We checked out every ride.  The older two Grands decided they’d ride two rides and buy cotton candy.  Or one ride, cotton candy, and take money home.  Lou and Ruth rode the fish that went up and down and around in a circle.

“Pop,” said David, “will you ride the bumper cars with me?”  He stood beside the painted board that proved he’s tall enough to drive a car.  “Not with me – in a different car.”  Pop headed toward the ticket booth.

“Pop!”  Lou called, “I want to ride.  Can I ride with you?”

“Me, too!” shouted Ruth.  In the time it took me to blink my eyes, it was decided that Ruth and I would ride together and Husband had the tickets in hand and all five of us were hustled toward bumper cars and we got in three separate cars.  I was concerned that my Grand beside me was safe and could steer the car.  It never occurred to me that anyone had to push a pedal.

“PUSH THE PEDAL!”  shouted the man in the red vest.  I untangled my legs, stretched out my right leg, and stomped the pedal.  “Hold on, Ruth,” I said.  I turned the steering wheel all the way to the left and we swerved off the rail.

Smack!  We hit the boy who’d laughed when he bumped our car.  We made a turn at the end of the track and five cars, including two that my Grands were riding in, were headed toward us.  I swerved to bump David’s car and maneuvered between two others.  Open track ahead.  Those five cars were stuck in a traffic jam behind us.  We made two complete circles on the open track.  The yellow car, driven by a teenage boy, broke loose and headed toward us.  I avoided the bump and hit the back of his car.  And then the ride stopped.  “Everybody out,” said the man in the red vest.

Husband, our Grands, and I walked toward the cotton candy booth.  “That bumper car ride went by really fast,” David said.

“Did you see me and Pop hit that red car?” said Lou.

“I like that ride,” said Ruth.  Me, too.  Just wait ‘til next year.  We’ll be ready.