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PRESIDENT’S PLATFORM | Building New Stories: We Volunteer?

April 25th, 2017

Featured Author

Robin Carathanasis

Marketing Manager

Lilker Associates

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  • President 2016-17, SMPS New York

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”— Winston Churchill. This quote struck a cord with me. It prompted me to think more inclusively about my service, my efforts at volunteerism. While I was fortunate enough to be handed down the spirit of giving back and paying forward by parents who embraced that idea, I realized that I needed to broaden my scope of possibilities.

Professional do-gooding has always been part of the agenda, whether it’s corporate gifting, challenges like Canstruction or volunteering to support and mentor students of the A/E/C industry. I know the rewards of those endeavors. Volunteering with SMPS New York is at the heart of our mission – over one third of the chapter volunteers their time and efforts for the betterment of the organization. That’s an extraordinarily high rate of volunteerism which makes me wonder what are the qualities that bring so much dedication, hard work and innovation to SMPS-New York. It is mind boggling how much takes place at the committee level, where one gives but gets ten-fold back; from new technical skills, management ideas, event planning tricks, camaraderie and friendships, and shared resources and knowledge. This is the place where best practices reside and are mentored for all who are willing to participate and absorb. It is all right there for you, all you need to do is engage.

Robin with a group of NY Cares Day volunteers, including SMPS-NY Board Members Rhonda Cardone and Olivia Farquharson, in Queens, NY

Taking those results and expanding their reach outside of our professional population gives us a hopeful reality as opposed to just wishful thinking of building a better and safer world. How do we start? I say, pick your passion. Whatever community organization, whether it’s a women’s organization, or fighting for racial or political justice, enabling the elderly, environmental awareness, any issue that touches your heart…you will gain satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you would never get in any other way. Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. We vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.

Our country’s history of volunteering is amazing and has always taken hold with the current circumstances. Today’s soup kitchen concept was created during the Great Depression. Environmentalism found its place during the 1930s, as President Roosevelt raised awareness by helping the Conservation Corps plant approximately 3 million trees in a single decade. During World War II, many volunteer organizations went to work on supporting both servicemen and civilians in a variety of areas. And in the 1960s, volunteerism focused on a different kind of war – a liberal one against poverty, inequality and violence around the world. In this millennium, green living, animal welfare and equal rights regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation are being addressed with renewed vigor.

And, when you think about that, every one of these issues not only helps the lives of those in need of assistance, but is intertwined with the growth of business, jobs and our corporate health. Volunteering and philanthropy need not be compartmentalized but rather all-encompassing. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali. If these words are true, let’s all strive to be paying a truly exorbitant rent. You know, like the kind we pay here in New York City!

Click here to view more pictures from our NY Cares Day efforts.

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