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Tell That Volunteer You Love Her/Him

I have a story I would like to share that I thought might generate some interesting discussion. Just a little background: I volunteer for many of my kids’ school and extracurricular activities. I do it primarily to be around my kids, because I like to socialize with other parents, and I like to take on leadership positions. My motivation has never been for kudos or thank yous. I volunteer because I enjoy it. This tends to make me think of it in terms of what I am getting (a chance to see my kids having fun) instead of what I am giving (my time.) It doesn’t mean I think my work shouldn’t be appreciated. It just means that because it feels like I am doing something for me and/or my kids I never notice when I don’t get recognition. This explains a bit why the following anecdote sort of “woke me up” so to speak.

Another mom (Shelly) and I volunteered to lead a Brownie/Girl Scout troop starting when our girls were in kindergarten. We met at least monthly and for special activities. The other parents were minimally involved. This went on for about 8 years with participation trailing off during middle school. The girls choose to no longer meet regularly but occasionally did group activities. We still communicated with parents and girls regularly. One of the moms (Jan) worked near my office. During that last year, I ran into Jan and she asked about troop activities. When I told her that the girls hadn’t decided on future activities, she pointedly said that she was going to look into finding another troop for her daughter (Tara) because we don’t seem to be doing much, etc, etc. Now that is TOTALLY fair and if Tara wanted to do that I would have been completely supportive. She’s a great girl and loved Scouts. What stunned me were the additional “etc., etc.” remarks. I can’t remember her exact words but the message was clear: she suggested that Shelly and I had let the girls down and said that because we were not doing our jobs as troop leaders, she had to find Tara another troop. Luckily, my dumbfounded brain chose to focus on her comment about a new troop, so I just sent Tara good wishes in finding a new troop and let Jan know that Shelly and I would keep in touch. I’m not the queen of thinking on my feet, but in retrospect, I think my reply was a good response.

On the way back from to my office, I started to question myself: “HAD we let the girls down? Should we have tried to keep them together longer?” As I sat down at my desk a thought hit me like a lightning bolt: not once in 8 years (that I could remember) had Jan ever thanked Shelly or me for being Tara’s troop leader or even complimented us on a job well done. In fact, I was shocked to realize that it had never occurred to me to even expect it. Leading a troop was something I was doing for my daughter; that it benefited the other girls came with the territory. Plus, had I even thought about it, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that any parent wasn’t happy with the time Shelly and I had spent with their girls. Jan’s thoughtless remarks had suddenly made it obvious that she hadn’t appreciated what had been given and what she expected was to be given more. Shelly and I had been Tara’s leaders for 8 years: taken her to camp 5 times, helped her get her Bronze Award, went on numerous field trips, and had hosted many, many meetings. And according to Jan, that was not enough. Could I have misinterpreted her meaning? I don’t think so—she made the same intimation on a subsequent occasion and has been chilly to me for the last several years. In fact, I just saw her at a local coffee shop and she would barely acknowledge my greeting and inquiry about Tara. I just inwardly shook my head and resolved to keep further interactions to a polite hello.

In the end, Jan’s remarks really opened my eyes. It hasn’t deterred me from volunteering. I’ve never come across a committee that I didn’t like LOL–but I do think about volunteering and volunteers differently. I still don’t notice when I don’t get a thank you but I sure as heck notice when someone else doesn’t! My wonderful co-leader Shelly was an excellent mentor to Tara specifically. Jan should have thanked Shelly profusely. Instead she said, “gimme more.” I don’t know how she justifies this in her head.

I think it would be interesting to hear how other people handled similar acts of un-appreciation and what they think the best way etiquette-wise it is to deal with the “entitled” in this type of situation. Or maybe some nice stories about appreciation? It is the season! Thanks in advance for sharing your stories. 1207-15

In any volunteer organization,  10% of the people do 100% of the work.   I see this in church all the time.   A few are super servers while others ride on their coat tails.   What really irks me is when someone complains about the lack of a certain service ministry to which I respond, “Get off your duff and start it yourself.”


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  • NostalgicGal January 12, 2016, 3:16 am

    Just don’t get me started about girl scouts. In those days most moms didn’t work, mine had to, so she couldn’t be a scout leader. Three girls lived near each other and their badges went up the back of sash by end of junior scouts. We’re supposed to get together to do something to earn a badge and guess who never found out about it. My mother got so mad about it she almost quit the job she desperately needed to volunteer so I could get something done and signd off. (That was the other gripe, I did the project at home under the eye of my mother and because my mother signed it and not a troop leader, my stuff might be included to the gift to the needy kids Christmas collection but I never got recognition. Should I finish with senior scouts? I folded up empty sashes, put them on at best half filled out books and politely told the scout leader who had lived across the street my entire career to stick it. Scouts seem to apply to everyone but me. (I should’ve kept the books and gone to the gympboree at nearby town with all the true bigwigs (Chicago and NYC staff) and let my uncle the lawyer serve them)

    I have volunteered for many things many times; one congregation I belonged to I was the ‘po girl’ (one street over from mansion row in a shoebox apartment) but other than I didn’t have a mink, I had hands and I had time, and I was scullery many a time after an event because maybe I couldn’t donate XXXX dollars but I had time and sweat to contribute to the event. Some of the ‘matrons’ realized that and appreciated me, and that’s what mattered. One other place in a touristburg, I had haul so many company through this one place and could explain and point out the good stuff, they offered me a job as docent (tour guide). (some things I had learned the story visiting other tourist places the docents there didn’t even know the story about some stuff they had)

    Jan you were a leader and ‘you done good’. I don’t have a copy but at one place in the docent lounge they had a poem, and it showed 3 people in a tropical paradise kicked back, being fan palmed and served drinks, and the gist of heaven is a lovely place for volunteers, they have the best of it all and they are waited on hand and foot by those that couldn’t bother to donate anything to anyone else or any other cause. If I had it’ I’d share it, as Jan you deserve it.

    • Mustard January 12, 2016, 1:31 pm
      • NostalgicGal January 12, 2016, 9:22 pm

        Mustard, that’s the poem, thank you.

    • stacey January 12, 2016, 2:07 pm

      Wow! Your mom was angry then and you are now. It’s true that powerful feelings come to the surface when dealing with people and organizations who aren’t fair or just. But has the anger solved anything? “I should have let my uncle the lawyer serve them”- for what, exactly? Failure to compensate to your level of expectation? Don’t get me wrong, these ladies sound clueless. But it isn’t the job of other adults to make up for the fact that your mom worked and that it was difficult to get recognition for your projects. If a troop change wasn’t practical- surely an activity change was? It’s not OP’s job to compensate for this parent’s expectations. In reading over your narrative, it strikes me that you and your mom have some expectations of your own… Volunteers burn out for precisely this reason- poor treatment and skewed levels of expectation for ideal outcomes.

      • Danielle January 12, 2016, 9:43 pm

        I was a Girl Scout leader for several years, and in my experience with other troops, it became obvious that some of the mothers were involved just for their own daughters; they didn’t really serve the other girls in their troop as well as their own kids. It seems like you may have had troop leaders of this nature, unfortunately. Just for point of interest, there is no rule in scouts (either boy or girl) that requires that badges be completed with a troop leader present; in fact, most of them require you do daily activities at home so there is no way a troop leader could be present for that! It sounds like someone just wanted to make sure their kid had the most badges…you’d be amazed how petty some of those mothers could be.

        • NostalgicGal January 13, 2016, 11:55 am

          That was our rules. If not signed off by a troop leader or an assistant troop leader it didn’t count. You could go through the activity six times but if it didn’t have a magic signature ‘it didn’t count’. With the main troop leader across the street from where I lived and she held several badge events and MYSELF asking her when the next one was, getting what I needed to bring and still not being told when until it already happened. Gee, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you.

          By the age of ten I was pretty sure of this. My mom said first meeting of the year, and I said yes (we went by school year start) I folded up both uniforms, piled them on top the books, brought them to the front, put them down, and ripped up mom’s check and left.

          OF course she had to call my mom and got told what I did. In my reply I said if it was going to be a repeat of the last four years I was done. Mom adjusted her checkbook and that was the end of it except buying some cookies every year.

        • NostalgicGal January 13, 2016, 12:09 pm

          One other comment, Danielle, this was the 1960’s, they may have changed that rule.

          One girl in a nearby town was a blatant abuse of troop leader power, she had her badges going all the way up the back side as well as to her shoulder. One of the freebie events I made it to, rest of her troop maybe had six or so each. None of the other girls from her group really associated with her. One gal said like (deleted) did she do all that work….

          Thank you Danielle, that you as a troop leader noticed it too. Some got it all, some got little to none.

      • NostalgicGal January 12, 2016, 9:55 pm

        The reason for the lawyer was they lost my check for the Gymboree so I couldn’t attend anyway. If it was most any field trip and there was a fee involved my check disappeared. Sometimes it miraculously appeared afterwards.

        It was that it was supposed to be for all girls. I wasn’t a terror girl, but by the time every time they got together to do something for a badge they forgot to tell me (one of these troop leaders lived across the street from me) and there was the trio that lived four houses apart, their moms were all assistant troop leaders and they’d just get together and whip something out. When they lost the the check for the Gymboree long enough that it couldn’t get turned in is when I wanted to file. To bring it to attention there were the privileged and the not. I wasn’t the only one that conveniently forgot to be told about a badge workshop, but to have the leader across the street keep forgetting you?

        My level of expectation was to get to participate in something than the once a month after school general meeting. And actually earn a badge. The time I made the stuffed doll with the bonnet because they couldn’t decide when they were going to do it (drug out for three months) then suddenly the event happened at the trio’s house; and my mom signed it as witness I did all the work, and they told us both it didn’t count because it wasn’t a troop leader’s signature and they put the doll in the donation box anyways…. after we cleared the house is when mom threatened to quit her job, become an assistant troop leader, and let me actually earn something.

        Anger, no. Just if it’s for everyone it better be for everyone. I wasn’t the terror kid, if there was one kid behaving on the bus it was me, and y’know, getting to rollerskate and eat pizza sounded like a heckuva lot of fun. Wish I could’ve gotten to go once.

        I sold the cookies. I used to buy a lot of the cookies later years. The issue is it wasn’t equal. Parental intervention didn’t work either.

        • NostalgicGal January 12, 2016, 9:58 pm

          Oh, there was no other troop to switch to. We had one for each level in town. Else I would’ve.

          • stacey January 13, 2016, 11:17 am

            Wow! That’s a “mean girls” story to top all stories! Okay- turn up the heat and pitch those “adults” straight into E-hell!

        • Becca January 13, 2016, 3:40 pm

          Argh, I knew mom’s like that growing up. They gave my mom the cold shoulder while she picked wreaths up for a fundraiser…like you’re raising money for something and you have to still be snobby when the mom you don’t know shows up?! She wasn’t in the “inner circle” and its because she worked as well and had a kid she actively spent her free time with, not socializing with the grouchy mom patrol.

          And their kids were not nice either. Go figure.

    • Anonymous January 17, 2016, 10:13 am

      NostalgicGal, I’ve had similar experiences with volunteering at my YMCA as an adult, teaching fitness classes (I teach yoga, Aquafit, and Zumba, and I’ve also helped with adaptive fitness classes and Youth Wellness). Through the years, I’ve repeatedly been set up to fail, and made to feel “less than,” and deliberately not allowed to finish the personal training course that’d qualify me for a paid position there. These are adults we’re talking about, and they put on a good public face, but the message is loud and clear that I’m not good enough for them. I grew up at that YMCA, and I’ve volunteered there off and on since I was twelve, but this year, I’m maintaining as little contact with them as I can, because I’m trying to figure out what I want to do going forward.

      • NostalgicGal January 17, 2016, 9:50 pm

        May you triumph at whatever you tackle.
        May the karma flow back their way.
        May someone figure it out (instead of toss out the clue and play with the box)

        • Anonymous January 18, 2016, 12:30 pm

          NostalgicGal, the people at the YMCA aren’t bad; they just try to do too much with too few resources, and it’s easier to blame the people on the “front lines” when something goes wrong, even if that “something” is the result of someone else dropping the ball behind the scenes. Their mindset is that everyone who works there has to be happy and cheerful 24/7, and our be-all, end-all priority is to keep the members happy 24/7, which is obviously impossible.

          • NostalgicGal January 19, 2016, 1:04 am

            Well if they’re purposely preventing you from completing training I’d say I’d about be finished with them too. It sounds like they treat the freebie volunteers as a total different class.
            They may be short of resources but surely letting you at least finish the training would be to their benefit, even if you don’t get hired.

      • Anonymous January 19, 2016, 2:26 pm

        NostalgicGal, all these people at the YMCA seem to have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Group Fitness Manager also teaches the personal training course (and the cycle instructor course, and a few others; I’m not sure which one), AND she also hires fitness instructors and personal trainers–actually, you have to be a personal trainer, and certified in multiple fitness formats to be hired there. Volunteer Co-ordinator taught the yoga instructor course and the Aquafit instructor course. Yoga took me three years to finish, because it was my first certification, and because I was the youngest in the class, and V.C. was holding me back for life experience. Aquafit took me five months, because I stayed on top of everyone involved, and followed the Practicum schedule in the manual. Zumba is something I learned (mostly) separately from the YMCA. Meanwhile, G.F.M.’s method of “teaching” the personal training course when I was doing it, was to allow me to take the classroom portion (also taught by V.C.), then it took two months before I was allowed to start my Practicum, and then when I did something “wrong” (or, made a mistake because I was learning), they wouldn’t tell me; they’d tell G.F.M., and she’d sit me down for meetings every two or three months, to tell me everything I’d done wrong over that time, which clearly proved that I wasn’t ready to move forward. She told me to practice using the machines myself more, and I did……and she ignored me. She told me many times to change my personality, and I did, and it either didn’t work, or I couldn’t keep track of what personality she wanted, so I just decided to be myself, and I know there are some people at the YMCA who ultimately respect me more for that. I’m not even a mean or rude person; I’m just kind of introverted, and I could be perfectly friendly and encouraging while teaching a class or whatever, but not actively smiling. If someone is rude to me, I’ll politely stand up for myself, and if someone gets something wrong, I’ll correct them nicely. Without going into too many details, after many instances of being asked to teach classes under untenable circumstances (as a result of last-minute changes stemming from other people not communicating, or not following through on things), and because of V.C. and G.F.M.’s insistence that I basically act like a cheerful doormat, I’m taking a break. I didn’t make a scene or anything, and I haven’t backed out on anything I promised to do; I just haven’t been back there since Christmas.

        • Anonymous January 19, 2016, 2:27 pm

          P.S., When I said “They wouldn’t tell me what I was doing wrong,” I meant the people I was shadowing for the personal training course.

          • Anonymous January 19, 2016, 2:44 pm

            P.P.S., I think G.F.M. and V.C.’s “vested interest in maintaining the status quo” is because, if they were to allow me to finish the personal training course (or some other deciding factor that’d earn me a paid staff position), paying me would take money away from the YMCA, me being a personal trainer would take clients away from G.F.M. (who’s also a personal trainer), and just in general, they couldn’t have it both ways anymore, with me being good enough to work there, but not good enough to be paid.

          • NostalgicGal January 21, 2016, 6:22 pm

            Anonymous I’ve been in that hole too at times.

            A nice break and let them realize what they stepped in all by themselves might do them and the YMCA some good.

  • Ulla January 12, 2016, 3:59 am

    I think admin’s numbers and advices are spot on. With children’s hobbies though, one thing might make the waters murkier, I think. At least here, many hobbies are paid for, and they also have leaders/trainers/teachers who are getting money for it. Of course, parents often still need to volunteer for supporting stuff, but the responsibility about planning and scheduling the activities is on the paid person.

    That is not to say paid personnel should go without thanking. But, if I’d sign my hypothetical kid to activity promising 2 meetings per week while paying the yearly fee for it (and assuming that the organizer is also being paid for the work s/he does) my attitude for dwindling meetings after a while would be different compared to the situation where everybody is volunteering and if there are fees, those are clearly to cover activity costs or something like that.

    In the OP situation, I can only assume that everybody was on the board about OP and Shelly “only” volunteering. But, if there is doubt about the situation, for example if somebody joined later and didn’t realize the nature of the group, then it might be worth to spell that out clearly.

    • Ant January 12, 2016, 9:20 am

      I would Question the nature of the “paid for” part. As stated in the original post most people involved do it on a voluntary basis. “Subs” are usually paid on a weekly or monthly basis in my experience and they only just cover activity and venue hire. My mother in law also insists on specific sign up to extra activities with the recommendation that fees be paid in advance.

      MIL will also tell you that some people after a while need reminding that girl guides is not cheap child care it’s physical, mental and spiritual development, aimed to make sure your kids have the skills for later life. She’s been volunteering for over 20 years (well after her daughters left) and been in charge of organising for most of that. In her first year in charge she confronted the problem parents initiated a rule that every parent must volunteer one weekend and that not paying subs was fine as a one off so long as the cost was paid at the next meeting but meant that the child sat out or was taken home after that. She takes a hard line but although many have moaned no one has replaced her (and she has tried for years to get someone to take over).

      In case your wondering about that first year it’s one of her favourite stories to tell… a couple of parents (related to each other) would often leave their kids with insufficient subs and not reply to any notes/ letters sent. Even though subs are tight any “left over” subs go on the Christmas party, which is also heavily subsidised by MIL. Anyway one day one of the girls’ dads rang up that he’d twisted his ankle and could his daughter / niece be dropped off. MIL went round and saw both fathers jumping up and down in the front room- apparently a football game had overrun, and they’d either not wanted to go out or had too much to drink. She said nothing at the time. Her comeback was to wait a couple of months so that it was 30 days before the tax year end, tot-up all the excess fees and issue a formal letter from her brother (an accountant) saying that the debt would be written off with a hardship payment from “xxxx girl guides charitable fund” in 28 days time. After 28 days a letter was to be filled with the relevant tax authorities to ensure they are aware of the “income” and a copy filled in the guides record books such that any further voluntary accountant could inspect and ensure proper accounts procedure. The letter also gave a list of local charities who may be able to help with their obvious financial difficulties. As I understand it one irate parent turned up to try and defend their actions, paid the balance and wasn’t seen again. I’m not sure about the others… I can ask.

    • Becca January 12, 2016, 11:25 am

      Girl Scouts has very few paid workers. Think of it more of a church set up. The pastor gets paid, the Sunday School teacher isn’t getting paid most times.

      You pay very few dues in Girl Scouts and it will depend on the leaders. That is for buying badges and your membership to the organization.

      In this case, you see Unhappy Mom speak to the leader and the leader mentions the girls don’t want to meet monthly anymore since they’re juniors now and have much more going on most of the time. When you’re 8, bi monthly meetings are the main thing. When you’re 13, you’ve got more homework, more after school activities to choose from, bigger sports to jump into. That’s why girls age out of the organization and the big girls are few and far between, when then you need someone to sign off on your badge work not to show you how to sew you’re beginning sash, etc.

      It’s a lot about knowing what you’re signing up for. Many have unrealistic expectations. Many think the leaders get even a few bucks of the dues you pay into. That’s up to a parent to understand what comes with the deal.

    • padua January 12, 2016, 12:09 pm

      i agree with this. if i pay (i’m assuming there are fees behind scouts?) for my children to be in an activity, i would want my child to get as much as she could out of it. i would be more grateful for the services provided, but i wouldn’t necessarily assume the position was unpaid. conversely, i’ve volunteered for many things that i didn’t get appreciation for- perhaps because the participants didn’t understand my unpaid role or the work that went into it.

      i would assume ignorance over entitlement.

      • Kheldarson January 12, 2016, 12:28 pm

        There are fees, but that’s mainly for your membership to the national level. At that point, you can be in a troop or not as you like (not sure about Boy Scouts, but in Girl Scouts, it was called “Julietting”). Your participation is as much up to you as your leaders, particularly at older ages.

      • Calli Arcale January 12, 2016, 12:43 pm

        “if i pay (i’m assuming there are fees behind scouts?) for my children to be in an activity, i would want my child to get as much as she could out of it.”

        The fee is $12 per year. Most troops use their pooled cookie money to pay it, leaving the child with no financial obligation at all. Since it’s the pooled money, it seldom even matters if the individual girl has sold enough. A single cookie booth session can be enough to cover everybody’s dues for the year. 😉

        BTW, there is a myth that Girl Scout cookie sales go mostly to the national organization, but this is not true. In fact, the national organization gets nothing directly out of it. It’s all local.

        • mark January 12, 2016, 7:00 pm

          Without cookie sales there isn’t a council. At least in the council my girls belong to the profits go overwhelming to the council. The troops and the girls get some of the money, over the years we (my family) have literally fundraised probably over ten thousand of dollar for our local council through cookie sales. (It may have been a lot more, I don’t have good handle on it.)

          • Danielle January 12, 2016, 9:52 pm

            Mark is right. The troop gets something around $.85 per box, the bakery gets about a dollar, and the rest of the money goes to the council. That’s not necessarily bad; they do put a good amount into the camps and scholarships, but their administrative costs are too high for a nonprofit organization, and I also find it unacceptable that they donate portions to political campaigns and organizations like Planned Parenthood.

            It’s also misinformation that the cost of the program is only $12 a year. That is just for national membership…it basically pays for the insurance . Most troops also have membership dues averaging about $5 a month. This helps the troop pay for transportation, snacks, supplies, and badges that the girls earn. Our troop kept the dues to $.25 each meeting, but the girls had to earn that money themselves…for us it was less about money and more about the girls taking ownership of the troop.

          • Calli Arcale January 13, 2016, 12:54 pm

            Correct; my point was that none of it goes to the national organization. People think it does, and it doesn’t.

          • Calli Arcale January 13, 2016, 12:58 pm

            Danielle — the cost of membership really is only $12 per year, and it covers more than just insurance, so if you’re gonna call my claim misinformation, I have to point out that your claim is not entirely correct. If a troop decides to collect more money, that’s not really the cost of admission; that’s the troop deciding to do it that way.

            I have never met a troop that had membership dues of its own, but it might be that some councils structure things differently than the River Valleys council does. Cookie sales have always been enough for our troops to cover not only the membership dues but also all the other expenses, like badges and journey books and things. You are quite right, though, to foster a sense of ownership in the girls.

          • mark January 13, 2016, 6:08 pm

            @Calli I agree with your point. I just was adding some info. I don’t think people outside the organization understand just how crucial cookies sales are to run the councils. And of course the money goes back to fund programs for the girls. My daughters have had amazing experiences as girl scouts, so I appreciate the girl scouts.

          • NostalgicGal January 22, 2016, 7:13 pm

            Calli Arcale, back in my days you paid a yearly fee to be part of the troop, you bought your own uniform, sash, book, etc, you paid for all the little things that did go on your sash (like your little gold stars with the colored round backing showing how many years at each level) even our troop number patches; and any badge or sign of the arrow or anything you earned, you had to pay for it. (at cost, but they’d look it up in the catalog and make the order and you paid up, then you got an envelope with the stuff and sewed or pinned them on)

            We all had to take turns providing food (like brownies or rice krispie bars) and koolaid to the meetings and it was 2-3 had to bring stuff each time. We had few ‘free’ activities, but one I certainly got included in each year was to go clean the cemetery before Memorial Day. Not that it wasn’t a community good thing but that one they made sure I found out about and they’d actually pick me up at my house. That sort of thing made the disparity about some of the other things worse.

            Cookie sales, I had no idea where our money went.

    • Denise January 13, 2016, 12:40 pm

      Rarely, unless it is lessons or things of that nature, coaches, leaders and so on are not getting paid. The fees collected are going toward the running of the organization. They are going towards insurance, facility fees or park rentals or equipment or training for coaches and so on.

      So many times in volunteering I hear “I paid xxx for my child to do this, the coaches should do more, there should be more and my child should have more.” Not realizing that those coaches, board members and leaders are also parents, who are giving up more time than you see (planning practices or activities usually happens outside of the time your child is with them) for absolutely no pay. Often times, the same person being degraded is the one coming or of pocket for extra expenses or when team parties don’t add up to what’s collected or for those extras for the group.

  • Tracy W January 12, 2016, 4:20 am

    As there were two helpers, I think you could have said something like:
    “Well good luck finding a new troop. You know,
    you could help Tara make a special thank you to Shelly for taking her on camp five times. I think Shelly would really appreciate a memento of Tara’s gratitude.”

    Or you could say, in response to complaints about lack of stuff; “Oh are you volunteering to organise some more? That’s fantastic! Shelly and I would really appreciate some fresh help! Running the troop for the last eight years has been really rewarding but it’s so nice to have someone else wanting to give a hand. One starts to feel a bit unappreciated otherwise.”

    • crebj January 12, 2016, 6:52 am

      Brief and to the point.

      • DGS January 12, 2016, 10:18 am

        This. This, this, this. Perfect.

  • Jessica January 12, 2016, 4:30 am

    I am a volunteer firefighter, we also help with flood disasters and a few years ago there was flash flooding on a cold day, we got asked to go and help sandbag. The water was icy and we had been standing in it all day. I could not feel my legs. Half the other firefighters were out of action due to being sick. I was cold, tired and trying to get as much done as I could before I picked my kids up from school. On my way back to my car I was screeched at by a resident for ‘giving up’ and not getting the job finished. They were on their stoop, rugged up in warm clothes with a hot coffee in had, some other residents were out helping us sandbag their homes or pump water out. I was too tired to even reply, I had to get my kids from the bus stop and get home to help them do homework, cook their dinner ect.

    I pulled up just outside where their bus stops, my legs were cramping severely so I stayed in the car, it wasnt raining anymore and I was 6 meters from the bus on the same side of the road so my sons would be fine. I had two of the wheels of my car on the nature strip which is council land because the road was so narrow. All was well until my kids had just jumped in the car and the person in the house adjacent to where I was parked ran out and started abusing the hell out of me for ruining his grass. He told me he knew I lived up the street and I shouldnt be lazy and just walk (I was still in my uniform and it was well publicised what we has been doing all day) I was trying to apologise and explain but he even started banging on the car windows to livid to even listen. I just drove away with two upset kids. The grass he was whinging about was on a side of the property where there were no windows or gardens just a long, tall fence so it seemed illogical anyway and it was not even his land.

    The day before all this I had had to attend a fatal car accident which was very gruesome and had to help guard the parts of the bodies all day until the crash investigation team showed up so I was emotionally exhausted, physically drained and still had to do my ‘normal’ life.

    I just went home and cried and cried and wondered why I even bothered volunteering.

    • @just4kicks January 12, 2016, 6:04 am

      @Jessica: I would like to give you a very big and heartfelt “THANK YOU” for your service to your community.
      It can’t be easy raising a family, running a household and being on call with the Fire Department.
      Kudos to you, and those like you who risk life and limb to keep others safe!
      Many Blessings to you for your hard work, and prayers to keep you safe and injury free!!! 🙂
      Thank You!!!

      • Marozia January 16, 2016, 3:37 am

        @Jessica: You people do a marvellous job. If it wasn’t for you volunteers, nothing would get done.
        My neighbour is a firefighter with DFES (Perth, Western Australia). We must be a different breed here as he always gets praise, thanks (and the occasional cup of coffee) when helping people out.

    • AnaMaria January 12, 2016, 9:53 am

      Firefighters do not get the recognition they deserve. I would love to see anyone who criticizes a firefighter spend an hour doing their jobs!

      • hi@just4kicks January 13, 2016, 6:58 am


    • Carolyn January 12, 2016, 11:13 am

      Jessica, thank you for doing what you do. The people who receive your help may not appreciate it or understand the physical and emotional toll it takes, but you do it anyway and that is amazing.

      People can be jerks. Even to the people helping them. And when they are stressed or scared, they can REALLY act unreasonably, and it can be a real challenge to want to help people who are acting like jerks. 🙁

      After 9/11, I reported to my local Red Cross … I had received training many years earlier and figured I could be useful. When I showed up, the first person I spoke to kind of angrily asked “we need people to sort donations, not go to ground zero – are you ok with sorting?!” Um … yeah? Why so intense? So I sorted donations (felt good to do something) until someone came by and asked if I could man a phone for them. I was told that every hour they would call us all away from the phones to have a brief chat with the other phone volunteers and a crisis counselor. I assumed those meetings were to disseminate information to us that we would need for the next hour’s calls … but at the first break I understood. It was so we could decompress. People were HORRIBLE on the phone – they were scared and upset of course, but when you have someone ripping into you it is hard to remember that when you are just as scared and upset. (I live close enough that we could see smoke from ground zero … we were all a bit freaked out.)

      When someone called and wanted to donate blood I would say something like “Thank you so much for your generous offer, but right now for the first time in memory, our nation’s blood banks are full so we are unable to process and store any more donations at this time – but if you would like to help out, we could really use-” That is about as far as I got before I would get yelled at “But I want to donate blood! Why won’t you let me?!? What is your problem?” It took everything I had not to yell back “My problem is that we don’t have a ton of survivors in this disaster, the dead do not need your blood!!!” People called wanting to sign up themself and their teenagers to “go dig at Ground Zero” – for real? I had disaster recovery training, but not at a high enough level to help with this … these adults had no training at all … and they wanted to expose their children to ground zero. And we had fire and rescue workers from all over the country lining up to help – people who actually knew what they were doing and would not endanger other recovery workers – there was no need for untrained people at the site. I would suggest bringing the kids to sort donations, explaining how badly the firemen needed clean socks and water and snacks, how vital supporting the recovery workers was … but they would get mad and hang up on me and refuse to do anything that wasn’t high profile enough for them. After spending pretty much every minute I wasn’t working or sleeping working phones for the Red Cross, I got the call that broke me … when asked what monetary donations would go to, I listed all the supplies and provisions for the humans we needed to buy, and mentioned that we also needed to buy protective booties for the search dogs to protect them. The person flipped out, said they wanted to help people, not dogs, and hung up on me. I let the person organizing the phones know that I needed a new assignment that kept me as far away from potential volunteers as possible because I couldn’t listen to any more awfulness. I went off into an unused room and ugly-cried for a good 10 minutes, just thinking about those dogs and the awful people who didn’t think their work was worthy of support. And how the dogs were doing more to help humans than most of the human callers I spoke to were doing.

      After that day, my job changed – I would go right over after work, hop into a truck that was already waiting to go, head into NYC and hand clean clothes and food and water to volunteer recovery workers. It un-broke me – I was surrounded by likeminded people who just wanted to help and weren’t looking for glory or recognition … they just wanted to help. And they said thank you when you handed them water or socks …

      Jessica, in a perfect world the people you help would at least refrain from flipping out on you, but in this imperfect world, we can turn to our fellow volunteers and know that we are part of something bigger and that the people who know what it is to sacrifice and contribute DO appreciate us!

      • Jill January 12, 2016, 2:20 pm

        Carolyn, your post made me cry. Thank you for what you did to help, after 9/11, and to everyone who gives of their time, talent and resources. You can “give” in many ways – a check, serve as a leader, help people, help animals, help beautify the community.

        I volunteered with people in the past, as a literacy volunteer and as a mental health compassionate peer. Nothing really resonated with me, like working with animals. I volunteer at our city shelter and have found in my two years here, that I get far more than I give. And no matter what, the animals are grateful. People sometimes – not so much! So I do the work that I feel makes the greatest contribution.

      • hi@just4kicks January 13, 2016, 7:01 am

        @Carolyn: Your story made me tear up as well.
        Blessings to you, and thank you for helping make this crazy world a better place. 🙂

      • Annie January 13, 2016, 12:11 pm

        Carolyn, thank you for your amazing service!

        I worked at a homeless shelter, preparing food. It was constant frustration that people wanted to help, but only on their own terms. For example, a whole group of women wanted to come in on Thanksgiving day and cook a big turkey dinner. I said no, but the director of the shelter overrode me. Of course, on Thanksgiving day there were very few homeless ladies there and none of them were hungry, so the whole thing was pointless. When I tried to urge the group to come in on ANY OTHER DAY of the year, they weren’t interested, even though we were always short on volunteers.

        Another time, two young ladies offered to redesign the kitchen for us. It had been decorated in the 70s, but it was a fully functioning kitchen….except that it had no dishwasher and every night we were there until 10:30 doing dishes by hand. I said, “Forget the redesign, just get us a dishwasher.” We got new counters and new walls…but no dishwasher. Also, they tore up the old floor and never put down a new one. I think they just wanted to feel good about themselves.

    • Becca January 12, 2016, 11:32 am

      You are an amazing person for helping even when so many others don’t appreciate it.

      Those wicked people who abuse you are the minority and grotesque individuals. However you’re children have a strong, independent woman to look up to. They will strive to live up to your example. Those nasty people won’t matter in the long run. They’re just speedbumps we hit along the way.

      Look around you and think of the things you do to make it a better place.

      Often we can’t find the people to thank them properly. So I thank everyone I get the chance to.

      I started crying ftalking to a medical billing person after I finally paid my bills off after 7 months. Others were cruel and treated me like a deadbeat while that office were all kind and never badgering. We do exist. Sometimes we’re just too overwhelmed with gratitude to even get it out fast enough.

  • Lex January 12, 2016, 4:36 am

    Because there are often costs involved with joining Brownies, Guides, Scouts, etc. It is easy to see why many parents feel a sense of entitlement to go along with their ‘subs’. Many do not acknowledge or appreciate that the leaders of these groups are unpaid volunteers, and many do not understand that hiring a hall to meet in, paying for insurances and membership of the parent organisation, and purchasing supplies is what their subs go towards – not paying the leaders to entertain their children.

    • Calli Arcale January 12, 2016, 12:24 pm

      “Many do not acknowledge or appreciate that the leaders of these groups are unpaid volunteers”

      Not only that, but a Girl Scout leader pays for the privilege. The leader has to be a registered Girl Scout as well, which means paying the annual dues. In fact, all volunteers have to be registered adult Girl Scouts, which means undergoing periodic background checks. There is no additional fee for the background check, but if you are a leader, there is required training, which you do have to pay for. And other training (which you must pay for) if you want to lead them on camping trips. I don’t think the troop is allowed to pay for your training, either, so although you can use their cookie money to pay their own annual dues, you cannot pay your own this way. This is to prevent adults from misusing the girls’ money. I think if you have financial hardship, the Council may be able to give you a grant or waive the fees, but in general, you definitely have to pay for the privilege of volunteering with Girl Scouts.

  • @just4kicks January 12, 2016, 5:09 am

    One of my favorite memories of my girl scout troop was when they took us to Dunkin Donuts to see how the donuts and munchkins were made…of course the most fun part was eating all the goodies we had “helped” to make!!! 🙂

  • @just4kicks January 12, 2016, 5:35 am

    In reference to community service and volunteering, when my two oldest went to Catholic High School, they were required to perform 25 hours of community service every year.
    They have both played baseball since they were very young and both opted to serve their hours with the “Miracle League”, which is a WONDERFUL organization where kids with mental and physical disabilities play baseball.
    Each of the kids/adults are paired with a buddy who helps them bat and make their way around the bases.
    I think my son’s had more fun than their buddies they were paired with, and if possible, were paired up with the same disabled child, so as to form a friendship….And they did!
    My oldest son played with a boy who was in a wheelchair, and in all the videos where my son is wheeling his buddy around the bases (“Faster, Cameron….FASTER!!!”), my son’s smile is as big as his buddy’s!
    Both of my son’s loved every minute of it, and continued to help out at the games long after their requirement was met.

    • Becca January 12, 2016, 11:39 am

      My brothers both volunteered with the special education department during high school. Even though they were bullied by other “cool” kids, they got satisfaction helping the ones who needed a hand.

      One grew up to help special needs adults in the foster system. He’s this big teddy bear who has a protective streak to say the least.

      Your sons get it and I’m tearing up reading about it. Thank you for that story!

      • hi@just4kicks January 13, 2016, 6:56 am

        @Becca: Thanks!!! You and your brothers sound like wonderful and compassionate people!
        Kudos to you as well. 🙂

        I’m very blessed to have kids who will stick up for others, even if they get mocked by the “cool” kids.
        My 8th grade son uses his free period at school to volunteer to help out with a special phys-ed session for all the challenged kids at his school.
        There are ten or so kids, in different grades, with various mental and physical challenges.
        They all take phys-ed together, and the other students may give up their free period to help out.
        I’m so proud of my kids for helping others, and they have learned to ignore the teasing from others.
        Okay….I’m done bragging now! ….if only they would clean their rooms once in a while…. 😉

        • Becca January 13, 2016, 11:06 am

          I love hearing about the good things kids do. So many focus on their bad behavior instead! They deserve praise, even though I’m the kid who got flustered by praise for good deeds. “I just do what’s right!” But recognition can do wonders, which goes with this post!

          • Just4Kicks January 14, 2016, 9:13 am

            Becca: Thanks again for the lovely comments! 🙂

            My mom wasn’t very forth coming with praise when I was younger, but very quick to point out all “wrongs” and make federal cases out of them.
            Don’t get me wrong, I love her dearly and we have a good relationship, but I swore to myself that when I had my own children they would get more attention for the good things they do than the bad.
            I remember very distinctly being little and asking my mom (I don’t know why I asked her this!)
            if she loved my dad more than she loved me.
            Her answer was “Well…OF COURSE I do!!!”
            That has stuck with me throughout my life, and my kids get lots of “I love you’s” and “Daddy and I are SO proud of you” whenever possible.

  • Saucygirl January 12, 2016, 7:28 am

    I have volunteered my whole adult life, with a variety of organizations, and am currently my daughters troop leader and I oversee the school cafeteria. As an active volunteer I am always quick to appreciate other volunteers, but it does sadly seem like others dont.

    A perfect example. Years ago, through work, I was involved in a food oriented event that raised money for the food bank. The event was held on a Sunday night at a local resort. One of the food bank employees told me that we would need help breaking down after event and would I try to get volunteers from my job for it. I asked if they would be able to attend the event (which was outdoors and could accommodate an extra six people easily) for free first. I was told no. I told her then that there was no way I would ask people to come out at 10p on a Sunday night to perform manual labor till midnight, when they have work the next day, if no appreciation would be shown.

    Which is why I agree with op. You can’t be in volunteering for the thanks. It has to be for whatever personal reason you have. And, as I also told the volunteer coordinator at make a wish after a new volunteer complained about me – you need to be slightly jaded and not expect anything. That’s why I lasted six years at maw and the girl who complained didn’t even finish one wish. She thought the families would fall over themselves loving her and being grateful for the wish she was provided. When she didn’t get an ego boost she stopped.

    • Mary January 12, 2016, 10:15 am

      Our city fire department has a huge concert every year. Fairly big names every year. Many organizations and businesses have booths at the concert. As the lead employee for the city, my husband was always asked by certain volunteers to help man the chamber of commerce booth. He was expected to do this every year. However, he was also expected to purchase his own $50 ticket. Even though he had no intention of staying for the concert beyond his shift. Fortunately he is no longer in that position and we don’t have to deal with forking over money for that mandatory volunteering.

      • Saucygirl January 12, 2016, 12:44 pm

        That is crazy! They made him pay to volunteer? That takes lack of appreciation to a whole new level

      • Amanda H. January 12, 2016, 7:31 pm

        This is the kind of thing that really bothers me with how some people treat volunteers. It’s one thing to accept someone coming to help out. It’s quite another to make them pay (especially a rather high fee) for the “privilege” to do so.

      • Cat January 12, 2016, 8:57 pm

        If you want a laugh, you’ll like this one. I worked for a private school and got a phone call from the parent who was in charge of assigning tasks for the school fair, which was our major fundraiser. I was to count money and my husband was to sell cokes.
        Why was that a problem? Because I was not married. I explained that, while I felt we should all make sacrifices to help the school, I really felt that getting married just to have a man to sell cokes was asking a bit much of me.

        • Calli Arcale January 13, 2016, 1:00 pm

          *hoots* That’s hilarious, Cat, and I love your response!

        • Mary January 13, 2016, 2:46 pm

          Good answer!

        • NostalgicGal January 13, 2016, 10:47 pm

          Love those sorts of things!

          I am one of those that has a big old pickup that runs great, has seen it’s share of use, and as long as you scrape your boots off first, I don’t care what gets hauled in it. You need one of those in every club. I will help lug to set up, I will help pack up and lug it back, but I am usually gone for the week inbetween. We had clueless one year that also automatically signed me to sit booth 13 hours a day. I took a selfie, got it loaded to their printer and handed them the shot. Wha? I was gone all those days so here’s the virtual me. They started to have a fit and someone explained about the pickup and lugging and THAT was how I did my fair share and there would be heck to pay if they lost their ‘lugger’. Oh.

  • BMS January 12, 2016, 7:53 am

    I’m a cub scout leader. I started as my younger son’s leader, but when he moved up to boy scouts, I took over another cub scout den whose leader had bailed on them mid-year. (Aside: Who ditches a bunch of second graders with no warning? Seriously?). I love being the leader when my kid is not in the den. I do have very, very appreciative and supportive parents, who are ever so grateful that someone stepped up to lead. They are excellent helpers, but no one wanted to take on meeting planning,. and I’m an educator so this stuff is second nature to me. I would definitely keep doing it, even if the parents weren’t supportive. But it is so much more fun this way.

    • kidzx5 January 12, 2016, 1:16 pm

      Been involved in Boy Scouts 25+ years and counting…
      Every now and then we had to remind parents that BSA stands for Boy Scouts of America – NOT – baby sitting available 🙂

      • hi@just4kicks January 13, 2016, 11:04 am

        I’m very curious as to when (at least where my own kids and their friends are concerned) being a Girl or Boy Scout became “uncool”.
        One of my son’s is quiet and shy, and was very shy when he was younger.
        We thought Cub Scouts would be great for him to join….lots of fun activities and field trips, and making new friends.
        After one year, he didn’t want to join the following year.
        We didn’t push it, and gave him time before the cut off to REALLY think about it.
        He said he did, and wanted to try new activities. Okay….we are certainly not going to drag you if you don’t want to be there.
        A few years later, he mentioned someplace he had gone with the Scouts, and what a fun time he had!
        This was over dinner one night, and my husband and I just looked at each and said, “but….you said you didn’t have fun, and didn’t want to go back the next year!”
        That’s when one of the older brothers said “Yeah….being a Scout is really uncool Mom….the kids I go to school with that are in the Scouts are made fun of BIG TIME.”
        “Ooooohhhh….is THAT why you didn’t stick with it?”
        We got a shrug and a “I dunno…..”
        What a shame some kids have to make things miserable for the kids who DO enjoy it.
        Now….we could’ve forced the issue, and made our son go, but he did finish the year as is the rule in our house.
        As in, you can join any activity or sport you want to, but if dad and I shell out money for equipment, musical instruments, start up fees etc: you WILL finish the year/season what-have-you.
        None of this “I played two whole games….And I hate it!”

        • Dee January 13, 2016, 11:59 am

          hi@just4kicks – There is a stigma that Scouts is an opportunity for pedophiles to prey on kids. That’s coming from the parents, and thus the perception is passed on to their kids. Also, many parents consider the mention of God in the mottos as the agenda of the group to indoctrinate Christians. The American Scout movement also officially excludes homosexuals from openly participating, and that carries over into assumptions about the Canadian movement. Lots of assumptions and misinformation spread by those who are either ignorant or deliberately close-minded about the goals and activities of Scouting. That’s what my kids have had to counter when in conversation about Scouts with their friends and their friends’ parents.

          • Just4Kicks January 14, 2016, 9:17 am

            That is really sad, but a sign of the times we live in.
            On the news just yesterday, a man was caught naked in a hotel room with two six year old girls.
            I was scared to let my son be an altar boy, and wouldn’t let him.
            And, yes I’m sure the good Scout leaders and priests FAR outway the pedophiles, but you don’t hear many stories about the good ones who are making positive impacts on today’s youth.

        • Becca January 13, 2016, 3:47 pm

          It’s been “nerdy” for years. I’m 32 and recall after elementary school the “cool” crowd thought it was yoo “goody goody” and silly because they want co-ed events and don’t want to watch their language. You’re not competitive like in sports, badges are like collecting rocks or stamps, etc.

          I dislike the mentality and always have but I’m one to not follow the trends or flow (school wasn’t hard but I had very few friends. Mostly the band kids and I bonded even though I couldn’t play an instrument, no interest in learning that! )

          It’s a good wholesome parent endorsed event! Booooo, let’s go break something instead! Taunt smaller kids! Look at us be so grown up, bleh!

          • Just4Kicks January 14, 2016, 9:19 am

            I fell in with the drama club kids junior year of high school, even though I didn’t act, sing or play a musical instrument.
            Those were the best times of high school, we had so much fun.

  • abby January 12, 2016, 8:05 am

    Is Jan under the impression that OP’s role as scout leader is a paid position with clearly defined responsibilities?

    In my experience, people love to complain about how someone isn’t doing something right, offering little in the way of constructive ideas for improvement, and certainly not offering to take on any responsibility themselves.

    OP’s answer was perfect. There really wasn’t anything else polite to say.

    • Mary January 12, 2016, 10:16 am

      If they are a Girl Scout leader, they definitely have clearly defined responsibilities but there certainly is not a paycheck!

    • Amanda H. January 12, 2016, 7:34 pm

      That was the impression I got, that Jan thought that it was a paid position with defined responsibilities. If that were the true, then her complaints would make sense because it would have been part of OP’s job description to actually see that things continue. But it wasn’t, and Jan didn’t make any effort to correct her own mistaken notion (and OP likely didn’t know about the mistaken notion if it did exist, and therefore couldn’t correct it herself).

      Agreed that OP’s answer was just right.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 10:05 am

      OP here. I would say that in our community 99% of people would know that a GS leader is a volunteer position. I happen to live in a school district with TONS of school activities and extracurriculars so “volunteer to be a Scout leader” letters and announcements are regularly sent out as well as announcements for other volunteer opportunities. I would say it is common knowledge which coaching and leadership positions are volunteer. Parents are constantly being hit up to volunteer. I have to say that Jan is kind of a nitwit so I could speculate that she didn’t know except that the story of how I was recruited to become a GS volunteer is mildly funny and I know I recounted it to her. She definitely knew that Shelly and I were volunteers.

  • CaffeineKatie January 12, 2016, 8:21 am

    Oh does this sound familiar! We don’t have children, but my husband is a teacher and has always volunteered extensively to help with Sunday school activities after he saw how haphazard they were, leading to disinterested kids and attendance drop-off. Some parents do thank him profusely; others seem to think he should swing by, get their kids up and dressed and drive them to church since it’s the parents’ “one day to sleep in, ya know!!!” When some of these super inactive parents started complaining and asking for additional programs, DH would listen and reply “That’s a great idea for an activity–what are YOU going to do to make it happen?” For some it was an eye-opener, and they volunteered or made donations for supplies to help things happen. And it worked to shut down 90% of the whiny parents while leaving the door open if they had a change of attitude.

    • abby January 12, 2016, 10:52 am

      At my old job, it would drive me crazy when people would go into the boss’s office and complain about how inefficient a process was, without any ideas or suggestions on how to improve it. It was basically, “I identified the problem, now YOU think of a solution, and your solution had better not involve any extra work on my part, since I already contributed by identifying the problem”. It drove me crazy. I think you should not be allowed to complain about a situation unless you have a viable solution you want to implement.

      • Amanda H. January 12, 2016, 7:37 pm

        Agreed. That’s actually how my husband ended up as the coordinator for a community garden in our apartment complex back in grad school. He thought it would be great if the complex could have an opt-in community garden because there were several people who wanted to be able to grow their own veggies but didn’t have the means to. The housing office replied, “Okay, so who’s going to run it?” and Hubby stepped up and volunteered. That’s all it took to get the office to actually set aside an unused corner of one of the courtyards to till up and fence in, and then Hubby spearheaded marking out the plots and assigning them on a first-come, first-served basis. It worked quite well. I only hope that there’s still someone leading that particular community activity now that we’ve moved away.

    • Kate January 13, 2016, 2:36 am

      So many parents have NO idea how much time (good) teachers devote to their job outside of paid working hours. I’ve copped abuse from a parent whose child was reluctant to continue swim squad training and was told “the last teacher I had a problem with got fired”. All because I was not forcing this boy to swim for kilometres when he was exhausted from too many after-school activities, and his behaviour in the classroom was appalling as a result of his tiredness. I don’t love rude parents at the best of times, but when you cop them at 7am while trying to coach a swimming session it’s very difficult to take.

    • NostalgicGal January 13, 2016, 11:00 pm

      Caffeine Katie, I hope you’re kidding about some parents thinking the responsibility on getting their kids to services should fall totally on somebody else? From getting them up onwards?

      (shakes head) I am ordained but have not accepted the call to serve a congregation for that particular reason The way I feel faith should be taught to the next generation would probably majorly clash with what they wanted… and I’m not their to sit their children either. And they want all these programs and the volunteers would be few and far between… sigh.

  • Coralreef January 12, 2016, 8:51 am

    Like in many other things, the people who do the least complain the most.

  • o_gal January 12, 2016, 9:24 am

    At least was equally bad at not thanking either you or Shelly. I’m also a pretty active volunteer and I couldn’t tell you how many times one or two volunteers get thanked but the rest of us do not. Some of them I can attribute to cluelessness; the person doing the thanking usually thinks that they are thanking some who is “in charge” and so the thanks will be passed down, but the person is just a regular volunteer who says nothing to the rest of us.

    Or sometimes it’s the volunteer position that gets no thanks while the paid positions are thanked. I used to crew for hot air balloons and the national championship was held for 3 years in a town just south of mine. At the big event banquet to do the awards, the people who had paid positions would be thanked and given a plaque for their paid-for service. But the crewmeister, which was a volunteer position to round up and oversee local volunteer crew, was never even mentioned. The first two years my friend Barb did it, then she asked me to do it the last year because she got promoted in her job and had to move. This was pre-Internet, so you had to deal with people calling you, arranging crew training, assigning crew to pilots, deal with all the complaints, deal with people who lied to you on the application form (yes, I said I could run and lift heavy objects, but the reality is that I’ve had 1 lung removed and I can’t do either, but why have I been removed from the crew?), and be there early twice a day for 10 days to deal with last minute crew shuffling. But the person who got paid to coordinate the pilot accommodations at the hotels gets applauded and handed an award for their “service”.

  • kategillian January 12, 2016, 9:57 am

    Ah, volunteering, the thankless job. Both my mother and I volunteer extensively in our communities, and she says to me you can’t be in it for the thanks, which of course I agree with. Just last summer my Ladies Auxiliary had to cancel one of our events that we have done for years because of lack of volunteers, the amount of people that yelled, yes, yelled!!! At us for ruining their summer, it’s a tradition, how can we stop doing it, we’ve ruined their children’s summer, was unbelievable. If you go back into the archives under my name, you can see another time that I was yelled at during some volunteer work that I was doing.

    • NostalgicGal January 17, 2016, 10:06 pm

      In our local weekly newspaper if you pay enough and for a good reason you can put your ad above the fold on the front page. That would have been worth it for a boxed colored ad saying “Sorry but due to the lack of VOLUNTEERS we will have to cancel the MudpieMaking contest this year. UNLESS we get enough VOLUNTEERS by 04-01-08, the Event Will Be Cancelled. If you wish to VOLUNTEER please contact (give contact info) As Soon As You Can. Ladies Auxillary” Then follow up with a small one a week before deadline if you’re still short “The Ladies Auxillary Still need 7 VOLUNTEERS or the MudpieMaking contest will be cancelled. Please contact (contact info) by 04-01-08” Then after deadline if you didn’t make it. “Due to lack of enough Volunteers the Ladies Auxillary will be cancelling this year’s MudpieMaking contest. We hope to reinstate it next year if we get enough VOLUNTEERS. Thank you to all that did Volunteer this year.”

  • Sue Wingate January 12, 2016, 10:05 am

    This really hits home for me. My boys are all older now, but I also volunteered for years to be part of their activities. Most recently, I was the volunteer leader for a particular club. I announced to the other members (parents and children) during the summer of 2014, that the following year (2014-15 school year) would be my last. My children had aged out and I had been either a leader or club mom for over ten years. It so happened that the past year our club’s parent organization had a lot of controversy on a state level and many of our local members had strong opinions–opinions with which I did not agree. They wanted a nuclear option of dealing with the controversy, and I sent out several pointed emails/had discussions in person, and said that it was very upsetting and made me angry when no one had stepped up to lead our club, and we would not have a club going forward unless an adult stepped up to lead! I really think the other parents thought I would give in and continue to be the leader if no one else stepped up. At the 11th hour, another parent said they would lead and things settled down. I am still invited to activities the club has and always enjoy catching up with the other parents. But holy cow, that was such a frustrating time!

  • LadyV January 12, 2016, 10:08 am

    My first question would be: did Jan ever volunteer any of HER time to work with the troop? If not, she seriously needs to just STFU. If she truly felt there were issues with how the troop was being run, she should have spoken – POLITELY – to either OP or Shelley much sooner, instead of doing so rudely.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 10:23 am

      Jan DID volunteer–one time. She actually came to camp with us once. We had had two other parents come with us as additional chaperones other years and were very helpful. I am not exaggerating when I say Jan was completely useless. Shelly is a much more forgiving of other people’s faults than I and she actually pointed out to me that Jan had done nothing to help at our campsite and wouldn’t walk anywhere to fetch and carry with the girls. At the time we wrote it off as just a part of her personality and kind of laughed about it. Jan is a bit “spacey” and is the type of person who simply doesn’t notice what needs to be done–even though we got big sighs and resistance when we asked her to do something so I did think laziness was an issue too. Just FYI–soon after that Jan started training for our local marathon so she was perfectly capable and healthy. She just wasn’t interested in helping us.

  • stacey January 12, 2016, 10:18 am

    Volunteering should definitely be done in the spirit of community building and volunteers who are mission focused won’t notice too many slips of ingratitude. The truth is, OP, that you did your job TOO well and others came to depend upon you without ever reflecting on the fact that your time and other resources were no doubt being expended. That kind of reaction can be like getting cold water dashed into your face but your response of wishing Tara well and continuing on with your own life? Perfect. Meanwhile- ignore the drama. This is the sort of mother who will complain that someone else (anyone else) failed her child and for which the expression “no good deed goes unpunished” was invented.

  • DGS January 12, 2016, 10:20 am

    It is always the people who do the least that do the most complaining.

  • Daisy January 12, 2016, 10:30 am

    I Brown-Owled my daughter’s Brownie troop, became a Guide captain when she moved up to Guides, and spent her teen years running our church youth group. For some parents, whatever you do for their kids is not enough. After much heartache, I learned that satisfying everyone isn’t possible. After that, when approached by a parent complaining about the lack of this or that opportunity, field trip, or Bible study, I listened carefully, smiled brightly, and said “What an excellent idea! We meet at 7:00 on Sunday night. You should be here by 6:30 so that you can set up what you need.” I never had a single parent take me up on it.

  • technobabble January 12, 2016, 11:00 am

    This story has reminded me to make sure to thank the volunteers that help make some things that I take for granted possible. Thank you OP for everything you do. Even if the parents don’t appreciate it, the girls that you mentor certainly do.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 10:26 am

      Thanks! Shelly and I loved the girls. It was a fun period in my life and helped set me up for years of future volunteering–which I really enjoy!

  • Annon January 12, 2016, 11:03 am

    I volunteer and coach soccer for my three kids. That is 5 days on a soccer field between practice and games. I do it for my kids. I love to do it with my kids. It’s the parents that are the worst. I work full time, and then volunteer my time for soccer. It kills me when I send an email to parents asking for a reply as to who will be at the game, and I can’t even get a response. So, I hope each weekend I have enough kids to play – because it is for the kids right? But when said parent who doesn’t respond sees something that their kid might have missed out on and sends an email asking why Johnny wasn’t there, and I explain that you had responded no, or didn’t respond at all, it’s funny again how there is no reply.
    I volunteer for my kids, not for the thanks, it is a difficult thing teaching soccer to 6 year olds (I started when they were 4)…….and I still do it, my oldest is 10. There are times they can’t start the season or have to put double the amount of kids on a team because parents don’t want to volunteer, but you better believe it’s those same parents who are the first ones to complain when Johnny or Janie doesn’t get enough playing time – but hey, how can they when there are 15 kids on a team and you can only play 6 at a time for a 40 minute game? Do the math – it doesn’t work out to much time.
    I also laugh at the parents who schedule there kids for multiple activities, so they can never really commit to one. I have had kids not show for practice or games because they had something else to do – parents, don’t over enroll your kids, if they commit to a team sport, you need to make sure they show up. What happens when you have a team of 10 and half of them don’t show because they have another thing to do? That means no one plays, and for those kids that did show, it is a disappointment.
    People kill me, really. But you know they would never volunteer b/c “I don’t have the time or it’s too hard.” You have to be there anyway – you can’t just drop your kid off – volunteer a little and make an effort. Your kid will LOVE it in the end – see my mom or dad out there on the field, they are my coach.
    Like coralreef said the people who do the least complain the most – and that is the truth.

  • Becca January 12, 2016, 11:07 am

    There are people who expect too much out of everyone. They either don’t notice you’re doing things out of the kindness of your heart and inviting other girls to join your daughters fun or they simply are selfish entitled brats.

    I imagine she’s a peach of a mom too. Whereas Shelley is a woman Tara will grow to be like in the end. That’s what we get from a situation with subpar, “gimme gimme” parents towards a person like a troop leader. That child got the warmth and support she must likely lacked at home. Jan used you as babysitters most likely and not having set meetings after awhile bothered her because she’s selfish and self absorbed.

    If she cared, she’d join or offer to help. Instead she whines and grouches around and punishes her daughter. Changing troops isn’t a good choice unless it’s the last choice. She should have tried to breathe life back into the one Tara was already attached to. Argh.

    I reconnected with my childhood best friend last year. She told me and my mom how much our family changed her life. My mom took us out and went out if her way to give us all the fun experiences as possible. It was hard at home for my bff and my mom didn’t even know, she just wanted her daughter and her little friend to have fun. My bff has many kids and she’s the best mother in the world, she learned a lot from those moments with my mom, her own was absent or otherwise distance

    You’ll get you’re thanks but it’ll be later when you’re troop is having kids of their own and they think “remember Girl Scouts?! And those cool ladies who guided us?!” I have a feeling some will find you.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 10:39 am

      OP here. Shelly and I liked all our girls’ parents–even Jan! And we did try to not be critical but it was hard as we had a couple girls in some difficult situations. Jan is a nice person but Shelly and I did notice that it was Tara that really ran the household. She knew her own schedule, made sure she had what she needed, and was definitely a leader within our group. She had to be. Both Jan an her husband are intelligent, nice people–who live in their own worlds. Tara had to step in or miss out. Jan has a very good job so I know she is capable and can be responsible but it slips at home. Luckily, I think Tara is just a REALLY different personality than Jan.–super efficient and aware where Jan is “spacey.” And I know Tara appreciated Shelly and I. She actually is our scout that pushes the most for reunions and keeping connected. Very nice girl.

  • BeachMum January 12, 2016, 11:13 am

    I was president of my synagogue for two years. When someone ‘helpfully’ told me about something that needed to be done/fixed/run differently, I always asked if they were volunteering. That usually quieted them up quickly. (I also banned the phrase ‘somebody should’ from board meetings because no one was going to volunteer to do something that ‘somebody should’ do.)

    People are unaware that volunteers do most of the work at many organizations. I was asked a few times how much I was being paid for being president (nothing but grief). I was putting in nearly 35 hours each week, but left the position with the synagogue in a better place than it had been.

    When volunteering, one must remember that doing the job is the usually the only reward.

  • Devin January 12, 2016, 11:22 am

    I volunteer with a state organization and a local group through my work. My company is a corporate sponsor of both groups and so I do get paid for the time I spend working with those groups when it is part of our corporate sponsorship, but I also volunteer with them when its not part of the corporate sponsorship on my own time. Every once in a while I’ll get irked that my company will get thanked for the unpaid hours of my own time that I put in. My supervisors will get the thank you letter and often not mention it till later, or hint around that this wasn’t a corporate sponsored event (suggesting that I better have not counted that as work hours, though I don’t). Both groups are really excellent organizations, and I won’t stop contributing my own time, but it would be nice if I was thanked personally (and I have mentioned to both groups that when its not a corporate event, I’m there on my own time).

    • Wendy January 13, 2016, 5:24 am

      In this cases I would think the organisations are trying to do you a favour by telling your workplace what a great help you are. Do you ever get to see the letters, they probably assume that they would get passed onto you.

      • Kate January 13, 2016, 8:32 pm

        I agree with Wendy – these organisations are possibly trying to do you a favour professionally by ensuring that your volunteer work is being recognised by those higher up.
        As a teacher, I enjoy receiving positive feedback directly from parents, but it’s even better for me professionally when those parents go directly to the principal with positive feedback about me. I’m not the type to announce to my boss “Look how awesome everyone thinks I am!” so when it’s done by someone else, I really appreciate it.

  • Mary January 12, 2016, 11:29 am

    I had almost the same type of situation. I led a Girl Scout troop of a few girls for two years before inviting the girls from the younger grade. Then it became a large troop of 13. All was well for several years. Then my co-leader had to drop out for work reasons. No other parent would volunteer as co-leader. So for two years I led all by myself, plus I now lived thirty miles away from the troop (except for my daughter).

    Obviously my leadership wasn’t sufficient because I had one mom call me on behalf of the other parents and suggest splitting the girls into two troops by age. She would be the new leader. It was hurtful and kind of a relief at the same time. My troop continued on for another year (7 years total) until they were all entering middle school and were ready to take on different activities.

    It was one of those things that if the other parents wanted change so bad, all they had to was step up and help me as a co-leader. I had been begging for years but when it came down to it, they only wanted to do it if they could be in charge.

  • Rose Lloyd January 12, 2016, 11:34 am

    I was a girl scout leader for over 10 years. I believe that I got more out of the troop than the girls did. Seeing those faces glow when they accomplished something was the payoff. I am still in touch with some of the girls who are now in their 30’s. Heck I am still reaping the rewards seeing what lovely women they have become. That is the payoff.

  • JD January 12, 2016, 11:36 am

    I feel for the OP. Volunteers are so often unappreciated by those who expect the most from them. I well remember how a church member told his wife that “the ladies” should host a shower for a church member getting married, and invite the community! Okay, we didn’t usually do showers for church members, but we had done so a very few times in the past, so the ladies put on a shower for the affianced couple. This is a small church, so only about four women ended up volunteering to do it and the man who suggested it didn’t show up to even help us at all, even knowing we had to move twelve heavy tables to make room in the parish hall. His wife showed up just before it started, carrying a small dish of cookies. After we, the organizers, spent hours planning, cooking the food, calling invitees, confirming numbers, getting decorations, setting it up, serving, hosting the party, then cleaning up, the wife of the man who had suggested this shower said that her husband thought “the ladies” could also throw a party in the next week or so for a church member who was retiring and another who was graduating high school. We could combine the parties! Wouldn’t that be nice?! The one other lady besides me and this woman who were still at the church looked at her and said, “If he wants it done, HE can throw the party. I’m done.” I said, “Amen.” That next party never happened.

  • Cat January 12, 2016, 11:38 am

    This reminds me of the Mom who demanded that the lady who had the kids play at her home supply her son with very expensive organic snacks. She refused to purchase them herself, but she did feel entitled to demand that the hostess buy them and to see to it that her son ate only the organic foods.
    This lady has a list of demands that she expects you to fulfill. She isn’t going to help you do what she wants; she is perfectly happy telling you what you should do. I put her in the category of those who feel entitled to tell people that they should have more children/should not have children, are too fat/thin, etc.
    I worked with a woman who constantly tried to tell me I was not up to her standards. I told her that, in my next life, I was going to be like her, but that, for now, this is what I was. That shut her down for a little while.
    What finally closed her down was when she started berating me for a school report that showed many errors and those who made them. She waited until we were in a meeting with the principal and other administrators to “remind” me that every error cost the school money.
    She continued so long that the principal got fed up with her harangue. Although he was seated next to me, he said to me in a loud voice, ” You did not have any mistakes in the last report, did you?” I said, “No, I don’t believe I did. I am very careful about that sort of thing. It costs the school money if I make a mistake.” She turned beet red and shut up.

  • mark January 12, 2016, 11:51 am

    My family has done a lot of Girl Scouts throughout the years and the part that never changes is there are a lot of families more than willing to be along for the ride. They show up for the activities (actually a lot of them ask/demand you pick their kids up and drop them off), but never seem able to make it to cookie booths etc.

    One thing we learned a long time ago is that ALL the parents help, or there isn’t a troop. If two people run the troop without help it will collapse most of the time. People get burned out and when it comes time to renew the troop it just doesn’t happen. Girls Scout rules also make it difficult to deal with parents who just want to be in the troop and don’t help. The rules don’t allow you to drop any girl from the troop. So many troops tend to be very picky. Sometimes if you have big enough problems a troop will actually be dissolved by the leaders and reformed as a new troop without the problem child or parent.

    Based on this story, Jan sounds like a mooch. So very happy to have you and the other leader take care of her kid. Sounds like this troop could have used some “mandatory” parent meetings.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 10:54 am

      Luckily all our parents were supportive and helped at different times. We knew if we asked we would get a volunteer or two. Jan even came to camp with us once and even though she wasn’t much help at least she was another adult there with the girls and she took the time off work to be there. What got me shaking my head with Jan was the “gimme more” sense of entitlement on top of not recognizing the time Shelly and I put in already. It was like 8 years of fun and learning for her daughter were just dismissed. Sad really.

  • Elisabeth January 12, 2016, 11:54 am

    I have many wonderful memories of being a Girl Scout with my mom as a troop leader. There were three main troops in our area, and mine was definitely very “chilled out”. We earned badges, but fun ones as opposed to requirement ones. We also took a lot of fun trips as a troop and I went to sleepaway camp for years.
    Unfortunately, some parents these days view Girl (or Boy) Scouts as little else than a home-run daycare. I’m guessing that Jan saw your troop meetings as a way for her to take some “me time” while someone else watched her child, and when you stopped meeting as much she lost that time to herself. I doubt she was as worried about you letting down other girls as she was about you taking away her child-free time.
    Regardless, if her daughter loves Scouts, then she’ll still be happy in another troop and her mom can go back to having time to herself. I hope in the future, the moms of the girls in your troop treat you with the respect that a troop leader deserves for taking so much time out of her own life to improve the lives of girls.

  • Calli Arcale January 12, 2016, 12:15 pm

    You guided them even through a Bronze Award? That is a lot of work! *Plus* all the camps you took them too! I’m not sure what this mother expected, but you definitely were doing well by the girls in the troop.

    My eldest is currently beginning her Silver Award path with her troop, so obviously she got her Bronze Award already. So I know how much work that is. Kudos to you for doing what you do, and for being able to focus your volunteerism in the best possible way — towards the joy of serving rather than the expectation of compensation. YOU are the best role model your girls can have, and you are doing an excellent job! I’m sad that one girl will lose the benefit of you as a leader, but if it’s any consolation, know that her mother is going to get a bit of a shock as she learns that this level of participation is pretty normal for Cadettes. (I’m reading between the lines here, based on your troop having recently earned Bronze — which, for those who don’t know, also requires completion of a Journey, which itself is a significant amount of work, even beyond the girl-hours required to do the Bronze Award planning and execution. And I don’t mean “required” in that “it’s a lot of work” — I mean in that each girl has to document how many hours they spent on it, and if they didn’t spend enough, they don’t get the award.)

    I wonder if this mother is having some trouble adjusting to her daughter as a Cadette. The program changes quite a bit as the girl gets older. It transitions away from doing a lot of fun arts & crafts projects and towards community leadership and taking action, with the girls contributing an increasing amount of the leadership with the adults moving more and more into a sort of consultancy role. This may be difficult for a parent to adjust to if they only thought of Girl Scouts as a supervised recreational activity.

    • Mary January 12, 2016, 3:37 pm

      Absolutely! When I showed my daughter the requirements for the Bronze award, she said it sounded just like school. I was actually in tears reading over the Junior Journeys. That’s when we decided to put off awards for awhile. I knew the Junior Journeys were going to be too much of a struggle for me and the girls. Way too much like school and I knew I wasn’t creative enough to get through them without the girls hating it.

      • Mary January 13, 2016, 2:48 pm

        I’m saying this as a Girl Scout who earned both her Silver Award and her Gold Award. I’m not sure that these award requirements have changed for the better.

  • mm January 12, 2016, 1:40 pm

    As Joey Tribbiani would say, no good deed is 100% selfless. Those who volunteer do it for the community, yes, but we are all human beings. And volunteers deserve to be thanked and appreciated either with words or actions. It’s easy to say the appreciation comes from seeing the girls grow up into strong women (to take the OP’s example) but that does little to alleviate the headache, money spent, time expended, and frustration in doing something for free.

    Sorry that this parent seemed to dismiss your hard work, but hopefully there are other parents who see what a value you were to their daughters in the past.

  • Dee January 12, 2016, 2:10 pm

    It’s unclear if there were regular meetings with this Scout group. If not, then it seems the leaders did not include the parents in the regular goings-on, and that that led to at least part of the problem (yes, I know, the parents should be involved on their own, but if they don’t notice a problem then they won’t act on it, of course). My kids were in Scouts for years and there were always regular required meetings with parents. In fact, every time you picked up your kids there were announcements directed at the parents. A parent could clearly see who was leading the group, who was new, and so on. Newsletters regularly requested volunteers, donations, etc. It was really difficult to NOT develop a close relationship with the leaders. It doesn’t sound as if this is the case in the OP’s letter. If she and her friend chose to keep things close without pushing for the other parents’ involvement (not necessarily volunteering) then that would, inevitably, lead to misunderstandings and assumptions. Part of being a volunteer is to point out, to those who are being helped, how they are benefitting from the work being done for them. It is quite necessary to help people to understand how much work even simple activities require. It also helps those who feel intimidated to come forward and offer their services, as they no longer feel they are under qualified for the mysterious goings-on of the group. Hopefully, the OP will consider such things in her future givings, and continue to be a valued asset to her community.

    • stacey January 12, 2016, 11:50 pm

      I see your point about communication as an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing expectations. But troops very for size and level of organization. Here were two moms who shepherded some girls through some very enriching and meaningful experiences in their formative years. I don’t think anyone should “armchair quarterback” the process of how they ran it or how they exited (provided that they did not do something unethical- such as promising something specific that they could not deliver). Perhaps my own volunteerism has skewed my perspective- but those who don’t contribute meaningfully without being prompted and harassed to do so haven’t any standing to complain of a lapse in “service”.

      • Dee January 13, 2016, 12:05 pm

        Stacey – I’m not giving a pass to the other parents for not getting involved on their own, but it seems as if this particular group did not actively involve the parents in regular meetings and that automatically isolates the volunteers as well as the other parents. That can only lead to the problems outlined in the letter. It is quite expensive now to put a kid in Scouting programs here for a year and so I do understand why a parent, particularly one who works during meeting times/weekends, would leave everything up to the volunteers, especially if the latter never ask for anything. Communication is a two-way street and without it things do not run well, and isn’t the point of the whole exercise to provide something meaningful for the kids, not end up in this kind of conflict? For that to happen requires constant communication.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 11:19 am

      OP here. Just some clarification. As stated in my post we did meet “at least” monthly plus other field trips, camp etc. It just got a bit irregular with meetings when the girls got older. Parents were actively involved as additional volunteers, chaperones, or as an audience but minimally involved with coordinating activities and logistics as well as activity planning as we left that up to the girls. Parents also often stayed during meetings or visited with us while the girls were working on things. We were pretty connected with most of them and kept them in the loop. They knew they were always welcome to join the fun. A couple parents did suggest activities and if the girls were interested we took them up on it. The parents trusted us to choose interesting and fun things for the girls but we always had good back and forth communication too. We never had an issue with any of the other parents acting entitled or dismissively toward us. This is just about Jan.

  • Karen L January 12, 2016, 2:27 pm

    The “other people should take action” belief has become very prominent in our society. For example, the protesters who block trains or traffic — why? Why? Why? Their message is “other people should take action” and the blocking of the train or the traffic is to make people aware of the issue.

    But follow the logic — the original people ARE aware of the issue and ALL they are doing is blocking the trains etc, and shouting that “other people should take action”.

    It’s an endless chain of people blocking trains and NOT taking real action. That does not solve the original problems, and only creates more problems.

    A real leader takes action. An entitled jerk shouts that someone else should take action.

  • Cat2 January 12, 2016, 4:19 pm

    with the followup comments, I think you could have said something to the effect of: “We’d like to be able to organize more activies, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to get the parental involvement that we need in order to do that. I hope whatever troop Tara transfers to has more active parents!” It’s a bit of a backhanded swipe, but it gets the message across that without support there’s a limit to what you can carry off, and you wish them well.

  • crebj January 12, 2016, 5:48 pm

    OP, if I read correctly this woman has been chilly to you for some years? Move on. There are gimme pigs all over, and she doesn’t deserve the free rent in your head.

    • Lila January 14, 2016, 11:38 am

      Unfortunately I can’t completely “move on” so to speak because of my other roles in our school community. I’m the president of the PTA at my daughter’s high school as well as the head of another committee for our class seniors. I communicate A LOT with parents and families. When I stepped into those roles I knew that being nice to everyone, being friendly to everyone, and trying to reach out to parents and families were part and parcel. Getting other people to volunteer at school events, donate money, raise money, support our teachers, and most importantly–stay connected to our school community is the mandate of our PTA and it’s important to me that I do a good job. Chatting cordially at the local coffeeshop with Jan considering my relationship with her daughter over the years and my being one of the faces of parent leadership in our school is pretty minimal contact and effort.

  • Anonymous January 12, 2016, 6:36 pm

    Who would bail on a cub scout group mid-year? I did. (I did have a co-leader who took over.)

    We did a number of field trips, and the kids were terribly behaved — at a radio station, messing with the equipment (actually turning the station off air!) and messing up their winter coat drive display/pile (throwing donated coats all over the room, including into potted plants so the new coats became dirty) — at a bowling alley, not listening to the rules and walking up to / touching the moving machines (in the span of 5 minutes, I pulled out 3 kids who were a split second away from being mangled by a huge rotating belt thing that sets up the pins) — at the church where we met, taking down the musical equipment (drums and cymbals), from underneath their very large “DO NOT TOUCH. CHOIR ONLY.” sign, and denting one cymbal and nearly puncturing one (expensive-looking) drum, not to mention disrupting a serious ceremony going on in the next room over — on a hike, littering when we were supposed to be cleaning up litter, and wandering onto private property (two kids got shocked by an electric cattle fence) when we were talking about Stay On The Trail and Leave No Trace — and many other things.

    What floored me: Where were the parents? RIGHT THERE WATCHING! This was a “tiger” cub group, whose parents were mandated to be present through every meeting. Apparently the parents thought that all this was fine, and smiled at their kids’ “high spirits.” My co-leader thought all this was fine behavior.

    After a few more of these events, like a fire station tour where a parent watched his kid turn off the computers that dispatch fire trucks to the scenes of accidents, and a tour of a historical landmark where a kid tore down an antique curtain in a Tarzan move, ripping the wallpaper which the docent had JUST told us had cost >$20,000 to replicate from the original… I decided that I was not a good match for this group’s philosophy, and quit. (During all this, I had made my own kid behave like a normal human being. He did ask me after each event why the other kids were allowed to be bad. I had no answer.)

    I was SO embarrassed, mortified, etc. to be associated with this group.

    I also was disgusted by the fact that, when given the choice, the parents would only pick “fun” events… e.g. I sent an email giving them 9 community service choices (clean books at library, rake leaves at park, help at the church where we met, collect donated food for the food pantry, do simple yard work for the elderly, etc.), and one fun choice (bowling)…. they ALL picked bowling. I thought the philosophy of scouts was to help the community, not just get together for fun. Again, a philosophical mismatch… which is why I left. I had not signed up to be a “fun” coordinator; I had volunteered to help the kids work toward their achievements (parents were not interested) and help the community (parents just wanted the kids to play games and have fun).

    • hi@just4kicks January 13, 2016, 7:30 am

      @Anonymous: I don’t blame you one bit for bailing.
      My kids aren’t perfect by any means, but I would never stand by and smile at them misbehaving or destroying property. Holy cow!
      …And, I too, when my kids were smaller had many talks with my kids about “why are the other kids ALLOWED to do that”?!?
      My answer usually was, “I don’t know why THEY are allowed to do that, but this is why YOU are not allowed to!” …..followed by “you are behaving VERY WELL today…Good Job!!!”
      …which sometimes got me a dirty look from the other parents.

    • Becca January 13, 2016, 11:14 am

      Woah……this reminds me of how I hated when my mom volunteered because she’d correct my behavior if I was even slightly off base! I can’t imagine watching your kids destroy things and think it was cute, funny or part of life 🙁 🙁 I’d bail too!

      My mom was the “watch your tone when you talk to anyone! ” mom. She’d hear me sass a friend and correct me, that’s why I was like “Argh!”, I have a sarcastic tone since I could talk,lol. She still questions my love for my brother since we snark back and forth but oh how we cherish our mama regardless of her not always getting us <3

      • kidzx5 January 13, 2016, 12:43 pm

        I admit – at one point my kids didn’t like my husband and I being so involved (leaders, committee chairman and Cubmaster) – because the pressure was on THEM to be the perfect Scout to set the example…
        Now, years later, they all praise how their involvement in Scouts has benefited them as adults.

    • NostalgicGal January 22, 2016, 8:42 pm

      Friend of mine (big burg) owned a fish shop a block away and across a street in a strip of four stores. He was hardcore into salt, didn’t neglect fresh, and worked hard for four years to build that store up. He had a display pool that held about 2000 gallons (I do mean pool, it rested on the concrete slab floor and had a custom deck built around it that had four salt water fish including a nurse shark (about 3′ long) and I want to call it an ’emperor fish’ – it was over the size of a dinner plate and would come to the surface and wave it’s dorsal fin to see if you’d drop it a few special treats. (kept in the live food fridge). There were four fish in there. Saltwater has to usually be very pure, reverse osmosis water etc… One Friday he had a bus of junior high boyscouts (he said they were about 13) that came to tour (arranged) just before closing. The last three to get on were laughing and he thought that strange. He shut the lights off and didn’t look. One had thrown a small Wendy’s frosty in the pool. It killed everything in there. I came in the next morning and he had already cleaned up the dead and drained the pool and was removing the bottom sand and just steaming. He said had he looked he could have saved them probably and he could have stopped the bus and gotten the identities of the three boys, THEN spent all night. He said he had just enough artificial ocean mix and RO water on hand to do a full change. Probably $20k damage.

      He sold that store not much after that. He did send the thank you card back from the troop, writing across it what had happened and he hoped\ whoever did that got their kick out of it AND got the karma truck backed over them.

  • Lyn January 12, 2016, 8:50 pm

    I led a committee at church for a few years that provided gift cards for parishioners to buy at face value (church buys them at a discount and so profits from the difference). As usual, a few people did all the work; the majority of the parish did nothing. Many times I had different people say to me “you all need to make it easier for people to buy the gift cards by making them available at this time or this time” – to which I would reply – “that’s a great idea! which time would you like to volunteer for?” Usually the answer was “Oh, I can’t volunteer at that time”.

  • Cat January 12, 2016, 9:06 pm

    Other people love to tell you what you should be doing. My church has an organization called the “Angels of Mercy” who help people who need it. I am not an Angel of Mercy.
    I received a call from the president of the Angels of Mercy, informing me that a lady who had MS needed me to drive to her house three or four times a day to help her in the bathroom.
    I have no nursing experience, no insurance that would protect me if she should fall and injure herself while I was “helping” her, and no time to drive to a stranger’s home every day, seven days a week, three or four times a day, to do this.
    I suggested that she hire a nurses’ aid who had the necessary skills and training to aid someone with a serious medical problem. She huffed, “Well, some people are generous enough to volunteer to help someone like this.” I suggested that she call one of those people. She hung up on me.

    • Becca January 13, 2016, 11:20 am

      That’s volunteering done so wrong. You ASK a person to help, you’re kind to them and tell them what you need. Calling up a parishioner and just telling them they’ll do something like that, wow.

      Granted that’s how do many operate, they think that it’s getting things done. Nope. My dad is a “don’t tell me what to do! ” guy, guess which girl can get him to do just about anything because I ask, suggest or slightly push into the direction I’m going for!

      I inherited his stubborn behavior and even if I would have done it, some stranger telling me I’ll do something like that would get the shutdown

    • Amanda H. January 13, 2016, 2:53 pm

      This is why our church has a Compassionate Service Committee, who calls around looking for volunteers to fill needs…but also accepts ‘no’ as an answer. No one is *obligated* to help the people in need, and the committee isn’t there to pressure anyone into it. Just ask if they’re available and willing (because very few of these needs in the church are widely known enough that people can step up on their own).

    • Reboot January 13, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Yikes! That is NOT an appropriate thing to ask an untrained volunteer to do.

    • NostalgicGal January 22, 2016, 9:28 pm

      I would have said, let’s trade for a year or so. I’ll run the angels so that will give YOU time to take care of this special person. No? Well then hire a trained professional, because unless you start paying me $15k a month I can’t afford the time to do this, she’s not my neighbor and I have a job that will be impossible to keep if I do this.

      If I volunteer that’s one thing. Telling me/ordering me like that for something I am not qualified to do and do not have the time to do (4 round trips of how far and probably half an hour a time once there? This person needs more than a volunteer.)

  • Danielle January 12, 2016, 9:55 pm

    The OP did absolutely nothing wrong. The Girl Scout program is designed so that the older the girls get, the more responsibility they are supposed to be taking for the troop. By middle school, the girls should have been scheduling the meetings themselves, and planning the outings with a minimal of adult input. If little Tara was not happy with the level of interest and participation in the troop, she should have used all of the leadership and communication skills she had been taught over the last eight years to rally the troops.

  • BagLady January 12, 2016, 10:21 pm

    Tara’s mom was horribly inconsiderate in the way that she conveyed her and Tara’s plans to the OP. There should have been a “thank you” to OP and her co-leader for all they’ve done for Tara, and also an “I’m sorry.” Even if she isn’t sorry about switching troops, it’s a courtesy to say sorry to someone for a decision that disappoints her or lets her down.

    Unfortunate as Mom’s delivery was, it could be that Tara simply wants something different out of Girl Scouts at this stage of her life than OP’s troop can offer. Girl Scout troops are not — pardon the pun — cookie-cutter copies of one another. Tara may want a troop that meets more often, or is more into a particular activity than OP’s troop is (e.g., performing arts, camping, intensive work toward the various awards). Mom could have been far more tactful: “Tara really wants to do more X, and has decided that Troop 12 is a better fit for her at this point, because they’re really into X.”

    It’s a sad fact of life that volunteer work so often goes unappreciated. For that matter, so does a lot of paid work. People take the work — and those doing it — for granted and only speak up when they have a complaint. It helps to focus on the rewards that (general) *you* derive from the work and take any expressions of thanks/appreciation as gravy … and show some love to those whose work you benefit from.

  • Gabriele January 13, 2016, 1:13 am

    When I was an adult I could remember people (adults) who had helped (as a child) in one way or another. So when there were opportunities that I thought I could do (without experience) I volunteered. In a small community the people I worked with were people who lived productive lives, whose children were a pleasure to be around, who did see their time as an investment in their children, their community and their own self-respect. And I had a lot of fun, too.
    And in observing others I learned a lot of lessons about negative behavior (on the part of adults toward children) and how to mitigate it. (There was one primary school teacher who should not have been, based on the way she treated children).
    So when divorce meant relocating to a large city and the friends I rented from went to a pre-school fund raiser I went with them (great school, good kids).
    It was an ‘event’ so there were all sorts of activities and booths and such and there was a hot dog and hamburger booth. My friend had done her shift but the person who was to replace her didn’t show up. One of the jobs I’d done before had been making and selling hot dogs so I volunteered. It brought back good memories and having worked as a waitress I knew a little about dealing with the public. I had fun and the time passed fast so when someone else didn’t show up I had no problem taking that shift also.
    Then people started asking me which ‘child’ was mine. ‘Erin and Heather are my adopted nieces’ I proudly said. And of course the kids heard and Wendy (the mother) later told me that their classmates had told the girls how cool their aunt was.
    I saw how enriching being involved in that way (more personally) was and so if I could help or support the girls’ activities, I did. I became their Halloween ‘costumer’ which led to helping with costumes for a non-profit group that put on youth plays that the girls were in. Since I love to sew, did I have fun? So much I ended up making costumes for the daughter of a man I worked with.
    And when I needed a job all the work I’d done as secretary-treasurer for a small non-profit group in that small town was experience I could put on my resume. It seems that the work experience itself wasn’t the deciding factor in my getting the job, it was that I was willing to volunteer and work with others without pay.
    And yes, working with others for a common purpose taught me that the differences weren’t as important as the goal we shared. I had to draw on that so often in some jobs but I would see in most instances that supervisors and managers did pay attention.
    I went back to visit the small town and stopped in an office. The person I wanted to see wasn’t there but I recognized the voice of the clerk. She was looking at me, too and I asked her if her name was ___ and she said yes, how did I know her? I told her and that I remembered her mother as well (and said nice, true things about her). She did remember me but said I looked younger than she would have thought. It was my voice she remembered also and we talked about things we both knew. When I left I asked her to say hello to her mother for me and she had seemed suprised I remembered her mother and then she said something about her mother would be happy to know I’d done well when I left.
    I hadn’t known her mother well, we weren’t personal friends but we’d worked on some of the same activities.
    There’s a song about the love you’ve been giving all comes back to you…
    I think that can be true. What I’ve given away is still a richness of experiences that can’t be lost while those who take and take and don’t give (not just to me, to others in general), they have a poverty which will never leave them. And emptyness of taking that can’t be filled by having.

  • Kate January 13, 2016, 2:28 am

    I think it’s a sad reality of working and volunteer life that a lot of good deeds go unrewarded. There are hardworking people out there putting in maximum effort, receiving no thanks – but boy do they hear about it if someone isn’t pleased.
    OP, I bet this woman speaks this way to Tara’s teachers…and sports coaches….and her barista…and pretty much anyone else she interacts with in any sort of service capacity. I highly doubt you’d be alone in doing your best for her daughter only to receive a rude reply.

  • K January 13, 2016, 5:30 am

    My sister does ridiculous amounts as a volunteer. One mother decided to tell her that she ‘didn’t like the way you did that email’ about something, so my sister just said, “Oh really? Would you like to do it yourself then?” Looking taken aback, the mother mumbled some excuse. So my sister told her that, “Since I am the one giving up my spare time to do this, I will do it the way *I* think is appropriate. If you don’t like it, feel free to give up YOUR time and take over.”

    • Pat January 13, 2016, 11:45 am

      Love that response.

  • Stephbwfern January 13, 2016, 7:05 am

    All these posts above have got me wondering what situations I have been in where I have not thanked a volunteer or been less than perfectly civil to them, not knowing they were a volunteer.
    All these anecdotes remind me of the few years I was teaching Sunday school. At the beginning of each term we’d hold a morning tea after church/Sunday school, as a chance for the parents to me the teachers, while a small activity was set up to occupy the kids. What would happen EVERY SINGLE TIME? The teachers would be stuck either helping wrangle the kids or left talking to each other, while the parents continued chatting amongst themselves. It was extremely upsetting and it often meant my whole team didn’t want to attend or participate at all.
    Now, as a parent, myself, I am so conscious of this kind of thing, BUT I can see how easily it can happen.

  • GratefulMaria January 13, 2016, 8:46 am

    In our school district, many parents really *want* to volunteer. Those who coordinated would try to match up events and availability but also tried to rotate so as many people as possible had a chance to participate. The list of names for our middle school book fair one year had a name with a note “only event this parent signed up for,” so we made it a point to call her. Most of the people involved tried to do things like that — spread the access among as many families as possible.

    For a few years I maintained the spreadsheet of people who signed up to volunteer at our high school. The info came from forms the parents completed in their kids’ info packets (with all the shot records, contact info, permissions slips, etc., so quite a pile). One year I got a really sarcastic note from a mom who said something to the effect of “I signed up last year, nobody every called me, I’m glad you don’t need any help.” Ouch. I checked my files from the year before and couldn’t find her slip anywhere; emailed her telling her that and apologizing. I don’t remember if she did end up volunteering that year, but I did get a mollified response.

  • bap January 13, 2016, 9:43 am

    My daughters and I have been involved with a certain type of competition for many years, beginning when my youngest was in kindergarten. We always traveled for these events. Many years ago I decided perhaps I could handle organizing one for our local area and with full support from my husband and daughters, did just that.
    It’s now been 11 years and has become an accepted/expected event in our little town with people looking forward and planning for it each year. And yes, my daughters and I still promote/direct/finance the whole shebang.
    Each year when the event is over, I wonder again why I continue. There is little to no thanks for our work ( although I have to admit I’ve also heard extremely few complaints!). We are exhausted and can’t even begin to imagine doing it again.
    But every once in a great while I will get a note from someone that participated – usually from a few years ago. And when they tell me of ways my event has impacted their life in a college class, or in a job interview and in life itself, all of the stress and time is worth it. I have remained in contact with a few of the participants over the past few years and they know I consider them “mine”. Several have gone on to bigger stages and they know they always have my love and support.
    So to echo what many others have said – the “Thank You’s” are certainly nice and make it much easier to continue what we do. But sometimes it has to be enough to know you have done what you love to do and enjoy the fruits of your labor, both spoken and unspoken.

  • hbc January 13, 2016, 10:00 am

    I try to remember that not everyone understands what goes into it and they’re all coming in with their own perspectives. Maybe they’re over-achievers who are giving 150% of what’s required in some other community role. Maybe they have no idea that you don’t just get a packet containing Girl Scout Grade 4 Activity #47 and show up with it. Maybe scouts is the one outlet for a kid who’s bullied at school and their panic over losing that is making them lash out at the apparent cause. It’s not an excuse, but it helps to see the more sympathetic possibilities rather than the much rarer “I am entitled to the time and efforts of others because my time is inherently worth more.”

    We also tend not to remember how many people were effusively thankful (or gave a quiet thanks or made sure their kid went over to say thanks) and the one soccer parent who harangued me about somehow being against her daughter even though I drove across town to do pick ups and drop offs many times, was meticulous about giving out equal playing time, liked the kid, and, oh yeah, I didn’t even freaking have kids so none of this was even remotely for my benefit. Ahem.

    But she had her own issues she was dealing with (including some off-field drama between her kid and a teammate). She shouldn’t have dumped on me, but with time I could see why she made the mistake she did and reacted that way.

  • acr January 13, 2016, 1:23 pm

    This really struck home for me. My mom was very involved in Girl Scouts for 20+ years. She led my troop for 12 years and my sister’s troop for 12 years. After my little sister finished, she continued as a Service Area manager. When she decided to no longer be a service area manager at the end of one year (so she didn’t drop out in the middle of a year), nobody said, “Thanks for your service, we’ll miss you.” She never got the “Volunteer of the Year” award and watched it go to people with less than 3 years of service on multiple occasions. If you choose to donate your time heavily to something, you really need to not expect or need thanks. Yes, those people SHOULD be thanking you, but you can’t control their behavior. Do things you find rewarding for their own sake. And when people don’t appear appreciative, do what you can to drop them from your circle.

  • Monkeysmommy January 13, 2016, 11:20 pm

    I coached cheerleading and served on our recreation board from the time my daughter was 3 until she was 11. It was a volunteer position, I didn’t get paid, and I spent 3-4 evenings per week after my full time job to do it. Most parents were awesome, but some were downright awful. We had ones that would pout when their children lost a fundraising competition and demand a winning trophy anyway, ones that would complain that the coaches wore shorts (it was Summer in the south), one that complained because they wore short skirts (it was cheerleading… You know what the uniforms look like…), ones that cried about practice, you name it. I was happy to resign my post. Then somehow, I ended up coaching soccer for my youngest, who is 5. It started all over again… I love volunteering with the kids, but the parents have pretty much sealed the deal for me declining to do it again. It’s too bad, since the league is always threatening to cancel teams due to lack of parent volunteers…. I wonder why no one wants to do it…