Volunteers make a major difference

There are two major components of volunteering. One is the amount of service provided to agencies, organizations, churches and individuals who need help. The other is the immense satisfaction that comes from contributing your time and effort to a worthy cause.

Recently, Retired Senior Volunteering Program participants in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties were honored at a special recognition program. More than 260 of the 578 RSVP volunteers from the two counties attended the program.

One of the speakers was Denise Stewart of the Otahki Girl Scouts. Stewart knows a lot about volunteers. Girl Scouting relies on more than 1,000 volunteers in the Otahki region. No rewards can repay volunteerism, Stewart told the RSVP group.

There are literally thousands of volunteers in our area beyond RSVP and the Girl Scouts. Recently, more than 120 individuals showed up to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to about 200 people at the Salvation Army and prepared and delivered more than 340 holiday meals. Hundreds of Boy Scouts participated in the annual Scouting for Food drive earlier this month.

The list of organizations that rely on volunteers is long and impressive. At this time of year, when many groups are conducting their major fund-raising efforts of the year, volunteers are critical to success. United Way and the Red Cross are just two examples of organizations that benefit large segments of our community -- and their ability to do their good work relies mostly on volunteers.

In recent days, most of the nation's -- and even the world's -- focus on volunteers has concentrated on all those people who have assisted in so many ways at and around the cleanup where the World Trade Center towers once stood. A sizable army of volunteers has provided food, shelter and assistance to the New York police and fire departments and to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Because of this emphasis on New York, many local and regional organizations that rely on contributions and volunteers have been worried. They have been concerned that the outpouring of generosity and commitments of time might means reduced giving and fewer volunteers at home.

But most indications so far show the true depth of American generosity. Local organizations are reporting good results in their fund-raising drives. And more and more people are seeking ways to volunteer.

Thanks to all of you who show your support for good causes by donating money and time. As Denise Stewart said at the RSVP recognition program: "I salute you."

And for those who haven't given yet, your support is still needed.