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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 14, 2016, 12:33 am

    I have done a lot of things since the girl scout days, including volunteer at stuff…

    A current club I belong to (I own the ‘lug it truck) and do other things to show I give as well as receive for them.

    They love to have this annual retreat a) it’s a goodly long drive into pretty and also suddenly ugly weather location b) it’s too small for the event, been so for years c) it really needs a bigger generator, the last several years it’s had issues with that. d) they have a few small rentable cabins but, no A/C. During that time of the year I will literally drop over and die if it gets over about 80f, and e) nobody goes outside, it’s an indoor event.

    I have the experience to put something like this together but not at that location. I told the club members sure I’ll be chair but it’s being held in town at X location if you put me in charge. This season they can’t get anyone to chair it and club prez nicely asked if I’d consider helping out. I said I’d gladly take charge but it’s in town at that building. Um we have need of guests. I said I can find 30 beds, the food facilities are adequate, I can take care of the catering, set up, rip down, plenty (more than double the space… AC and enough electricity. I’ve dealt with channel film crews and national press conferences (giving one). From handing it over to the invites going out I said three weeks. But won’t budge on the location. The other one is far too small with too many minuses. They’re still looking for someone to chair that one.

    • Lerah99 January 14, 2016, 10:09 am

      I know how frustrating that can be.

      I was involved with a group that held festivals twice a year at a local camp ground.
      The camp ground had bathrooms and showers, a couple cabins, a rec room with a kitchen, and then space for tent camping.

      The attendance swelled from about 250 people to 700 people in about 3 years and the camp grounds were just too small.

      I found a much larger camp ground, that had more cabins, two areas for big camp fires, showers, two kitchen facilities, hook ups for up to 30 RVs, a stage, a couple of rec buildings for workshops, and electricity run out to one of the fields so vendors could light their booths and continue to sell after sunset.

      The group didn’t want to use it because it cost twice as much as our current campground.

      I pointed out that our attendance was 3 times what it had been when we started and we had over $120,000 in the bank so we could certainly afford an extra $800 for much better facilities.

      They refused to move, and the festivals started getting a bad reputation for being over crowded and poorly run.

      So the problem was solved by attendance falling off due to all the problems with the smaller campsite.

      • NostalgicGal January 14, 2016, 3:52 pm

        Yep, and I made it plain, I can do this, it’ll be put together right and on schedule and I will do it, just the one unbudgeale point. The cost of the new site would actually be less, btw.

        They weren’t the happiest three years ago when they didn’t even have an idea what the event was costing so I made a motion and it was seconded and carried that they round up all the bills and figure out what it was costing them (going in the hole)

        We’ll see how desperate they are, I said end of March meeting I withdraw my offer to get near this year’s one anymore. If they decide to go for it, fine with me.

  • Lila January 14, 2016, 1:38 pm

    OP again 🙂 All these stories reminded me of another. Recently I was sitting at a table helping promote PTA membership at our high school conference night. One dad came up to the table. Another board member and I started giving him the spiel about how it helps the school, etc. He asked if being a member would help him connect with his son. He is a single father without custody and he wanted to find a way to connect with his child. Awesome! We told him that we honestly didn’t think PTA would be the way. He asked if we had any ideas. I suggested that he volunteer with one of his son’s clubs or activities and I asked if his son was in any clubs, sports, music, etc. He said no. I suggested that he ask his son if he was interested in any in the school and if so he could be a volunteer parent. I mentioned my own experience as parent volunteer for my son’s robotics team, my daughter’s theater activities, music trips, etc. He looked at me and said, “How can you do that and be out making a living? Oh, someone else does…” Basically saying that I can volunteer because I had a husband making all the money and I was a stay at home mom. I just looked at him and said, “Nope. I work” and changed the conversation’s direction. First of all–I have been a single parent since my oldest was in kindergarten. I work full time. So the assumption that I had to be a stay at home to have time to volunteer is both insulting moms who have to work around a work schedule to volunteer and SAHMs who work their butts off at home everyday. Secondly, he asked about connecting with his kid. I assumed that meant spending time with them so I figured that was part of the equation. Of course, there are many ways he could connect with his kid. I was simply sharing one idea. My suggestion was to use their allotted time together to connect with his son by being a part of something the kid likes to do. He wouldn’t be spending extra time he doesn’t have, it would be spending the time he does have differently. Saying he wouldn’t have time because he is “making a living” is disrespectful to stay at home moms (who are busy raising children) and working moms who somehow manage to volunteer even though they are in the same boat as he is–making a living!

    • NostalgicGal January 15, 2016, 8:45 am

      It’s usually fellows, but not always. They head out they do their 40 hours, then the other 128 hours that week is FREE. They’re off work, they don’t have to do a bleeping thing except what they want to. The house is supposed to stay perfectly clean no matter what they toss where, food is supposed to magically appear by them, whatever and whenever they want, and dirty dishes and laundry do not exist. My DH had started grad school and a lot of what he did he could literally log in from home and do. I worked 60-70 hours a week on feet and needed 10 hours of sleep to keep going it was that hard. So that gave me a total of about a day and a half off, and the half was sprinkled through the week, so. I had one day off. Clean that dump, catch up with the dishes and laundry and EVERYTHING then go back to work. Remember he was there 24/7 for 5-6 days a week and always screaming how bad the place looked. So I busted mine and had that place shining, all laundry and dishes done, groceries, everything. I slept on the couch (at 4 am right under the AC was lovely after getting off shift). I took a bag and put my work clothes in that as I used them, and reused the same towel for shower all week. Day off, place is PILED and he’s screaming. I picked up two empty beercans (when I got off work that morning I had two), dumped a pillowcase of laundry and a towel at his feet. That is all I’d done to this place for a week. YOU are one that’s here all the time. But I have homework…. BeenThere we met at college remember. YOU are the one that’s here all day, you’re going to learn to pick up your own (DELETED) mess. And while you’re doing X you can sure as (bleep) run a load of laundry. You carried the cup from the cupboard next to the sink to there, you can carry it back to the sink. He learned to wash dishes, do laundry and use a clothes hamper. His cookbook holder had a text book in it, but he could wash up his own lunch dishes. It was later much later we had the revelation sink in that an hour worked was an hour worked whether it was bringing home the loaf or doing housework.

      If you have kids, you’re a parent 24/7, It’s your kid, you find the time. That’s life.

    • mark January 15, 2016, 11:54 am

      My wife is a stay at home parent, so she does do most of the taking care of the kids and running them to appointments, etc, but I do make a point of at least doing some of the appointments, because if something happens I’ll need to be able to do it. And when my wife had surgery last year, and was out of commission for 2+ months it would have been much harder had I not been familiar with the routine.

      • NostalgicGal January 15, 2016, 4:12 pm

        Bravo, Mark.

        We just got a new washer (old one tendered resignation after 4 repairs and 25 years of devoted service) and it’s one of the so called ‘H-E’ models and some laundry soaps are formulated to work with them. I gave him a lesson today (I had medical tests) on how to read the markings on the cap and how much stuff that meant you put in there and how to set it. More than happy to give him lessons if he asks. 🙂

  • Sunnydi84 January 16, 2016, 2:37 am

    Oh my! Your story made me cringe and relive the horror of being a girl scout leader! I can’t tell you the number of times people would pick up their kids late (one over 30 mins because she forgot what time we ended!! After 3 years!!) The parents who wanted us to go on all these field trips and do all these activities but did any of them volunteer? They were upset because we didn’t do more. We planned a fun pool party at a local pool and the parents had to pay in advance as we had been shorted in the past for these events. We had a deadline for payment. We made the deadline quite clear. The deadline came and went. We had a few upset parents because we didn’t wait past the deadline to send in the money and now little Suzie couldn’t go to the pool party! We had girls DROPPED off at the zoo with NO money (that’s why we prepaid for the pool party). Um, who did they think was paying when we made it quite clear they needed to bring money!
    We had a calendar with the dates of the meetings. One mom just took it upon herself to tell her 1st grader we were having a meeting on a non-meeting day! She apparently couldn’t pick up her daughter on time and needed a sitter! Who better to baby sit than your girl scout leader! So, her daughter told the other girls and when I came to pick up my daughter we had the whole troop there waiting! No parents, just the girl scout day care!! Who just believes their kid without calling the leader to verify there has been a date change for the meeting!! Apparently 15 moms!
    We also had a mom tell us she was off the hook for volunteering as she worked full time!! Um, no you can cut things out. Help with organizing the books. Anything!!
    And, the two moms who stole cookie money! I’ve got so many stories, but these are the gems. Never again!
    It was a horrible nightmare and I think very few, if any, of the parents appreciated it. We only had one (out of like 15) parents tell us they appreciated what we did for the girls. The troop lasted 4 years. One of the moms took it over and basically kicked out all but 4 girls. She wanted a smaller troop because of all the hassles!

    • NostalgicGal January 17, 2016, 1:17 am

      I’ve heard more than one about cookies at the card table at the store being marked up a bit, then some mom skimmed the extra money off. It quickly got found out when some of those that paid X a box found out the other three troops sold them for Y a box…..

      I said elsewhere in my days my mom was one of the few that worked in days when most women didn’t. She sent food to the meetings. I never seemed to be able to do anything else, my mom even offered once to hold a badgearama day at our house (troop leader was across the street) and put all the leaves in the big dining room table we had and make food and offered a Saturday to do this. Nope. Troop leader told her she was ‘busy and booked’. Then was seen downtown later that Saturday afternoon loafing off at the soda fountain at the drug store having coffee because she had nothing better to do. Part of that was to see if we could get the toy thing finished which had drug out a month already (it went for three then suddenly happened at the trio’s place)

  • Marozia January 16, 2016, 3:59 am

    Lord Baden-Powell created the Scout movement to encourage spiritual, moral and personal development. Not to compete for badges on sashes, exclusion from groups and huge ego boosts.
    If he read some of these comment, he’d be rather cheesed off.
    Baden-Powell also encouraged volunteering as well. My husband was a Scout and enjoyed every minute of it. Like Lord Baden-Powell, he went on to become a Freemason.

  • Aleko January 18, 2016, 9:32 am

    I can empathise with the OP’s feelings at not being thanked for her volunteer work, only implicitly criticised for not doing more of it.

    Nevertheless, it seem to me at least possible that by allowing their troop to stagnate, OP and Shelly were doing everyone a disservice; so long as the troop remained in existence with them at the head, nobody could start a new one in competition with it. Perhaps it would have been better if they had either wound it up or asked around to see if anyone wanted to take it over from them and liven it up. Clearly at least one member of the troop was dissatisfied with the way it had ceased to be active.

    • Lila January 19, 2016, 12:33 pm

      Op here. No one was going to start a new troop for seventh or eighth graders. We actually went on MUCH longer than other troops in our community because we had such a strong troop. If a girl in our community is interested in becoming a Cadette there is one particular very experienced leader who shepherds those girls for our entire city. There is just not enough interest for a troop for each middle school. There was one other troop for my daughter’s age group which was the one Shelly was thinking of having Tara join. They were pretty much done too so it never happened.

  • Just4Kicks January 19, 2016, 7:37 am

    My family and I went through six boxes of Girl Scout cookies this past weekend….so yummy!
    I don’t know if they are new this year, but the “Lemonades” (shortbread cookies with a very lemony icing) are divine.

    • Mary January 19, 2016, 3:35 pm

      Might be new in your council but my council has had them for at least ten years. They are yummy!

      • NostalgicGal January 19, 2016, 4:38 pm

        Chocolate shortbread was my far out favorite, next was golden yangles crackers… miss them both