Helping Works by Anna Webb: Reader makes the case for joining a service organization

awebb@idahostatesman.comJune 10, 2014 

A letter from Statesman reader John Hand recently made its way to my desk.

Hand's father, David Hand, died in April. The loss inspired John to think about his father, about his father's role in the community and the ways John himself has been able to strengthen his ties to others through community service.

Here is Hand's letter:

My father recently passed away. Losing a parent is rarely described as enjoyable, but in our case I believe that word is appropriate.

David Hand lived an interesting and complete life. He was 87, a soldier, geologist, innkeeper, and trade executive, a person who loved his family and overcame obstacles.

Summarizing any person's life into an obituary provides challenges, not the least of which is figuring out which swaths of personal history to ignore. Comments from family and friends helped us determine what to include and what could be distilled into two words: gentleman and civility. One friend described dad by quoting John Walter Wayland:

"The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will ... whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others rather than his own."

No matter where we lived in Idaho, my dad assembled a community service resume. In Montpelier, Dad joined the Lions Club; in Idaho Falls, he was a Rotarian; in Boise, he gave his time to the Idaho State Commission for the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association and (at age 84) volunteered at the Corpus Christi House, a day shelter for homeless men, women and families. He lived a life of service, delivered with civility.

I am part of a generation that - let's be honest - is not the "greatest." We are frequently self-absorbed, selfish and responsibility-averse. We take more than we give, then complain that our lives are unfulfilled. We mock those whose religious or political affiliations differ from our own. We are frequently uncivil.

In contrast, a fluke now allows me to experience how the Meridian Lions Club serves our community in ways that are both quiet and impactful.

My rationale to join the club was suspect, even selfish. Simply put, my wife was very active and I wanted to spend more time with her. Loraine is a generous spirit, just like my dad. She gives more than she takes.

There are other great people in our club, too many to mention by name. They volunteer thousands of hours each year in diverse ways: They sort food and raise money for the Meridian Foodbank; plant trees in parks; hold vision screening for local students; host an annual community rodeo, and sponsor the Leos - a Renaissance High School service organization. The club donates thousands of dollars each year to the Idaho Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. They have been at it for 75 years, and their giving continues.

My generation often mocks service organizations - whether Lions, Rotary, Elks, Kiwanis or another club. We stereotype service clubs as populated by older people who wear funny vests or hats.

The fact is, we need more people like those of you reading this letter to join these organizations. Our Meridian Lions Club is more effective when we are diverse. Our youngest member is not yet 20. She's one of a growing number of women in the organization.

The first female Lion in Idaho, Fran Christensen, is still a member and an incredible inspiration. We focus on the ties that bind our community and practice civility.

Fellow Lions probably do not know my religion, political affiliation, or where I buy my groceries- nor do they care. But they do know I am proud to count myself among them and that I will roll up my sleeves to get things done.

If you find yourself wondering how you can serve your community, please consider joining a Treasure Valley service organization.

• Note: To learn more about the Meridian Lions, visit their website.

POLITICOS: VOLUNTEER TO PROMOTE VOTING

Join the ACLU of Idaho on Wednesday, June 11, for an all-important volunteer voter-engagement-training session.

Participants will learn about Idaho's current voting laws and gain experience with the tools and strategies behind electoral work. The training will cover voting history and "mobilization" techniques, including voter registration, education, and get-out-to-vote strategies.

The session is from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Boise Public Library, Marion Bingham Room, 715 S. Capitol Blvd.

To reserve your spot, register online. Call 344-9750, ext. 1204, with questions.

BRONCO BOON

The Boise State University Bookstore and Bronco Shops will give $600,000 in proceeds to Boise State to support Boise State's Presidential and Dean's Scholarships.

The scholarships are merit-based. The former is a two-year $5,000-per-year award. The latter is a two-year $3,000-per-year award.

Nice to think about when you buy that new Broncos sweatshirt.

REMINDER: SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE NEEDS YOU

The staff at the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is training its fifth group of volunteers. The plan is to have them ready to answer phones by mid-June. At that point, said John Reusser, hotline director, the office will be able to expand hours, adding Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. to the current hours, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.

If you'd like to learn more about training to become a phone volunteer, call Nina Leary, volunteer coordinator at 258-6992.

FRIENDS REMEMBER IRENE NEELY, ARDENT VOLUNTEER

Next time you're walking through Boise's Memorial Park (tucked north of Fort Street at 900 N. 6th St.) take a minute to check out a stone bench just east of the playground. Jan's Imperial Plaza Beauty Salon dedicated the memorial bench to Irene Neely. Neely helped out at the salon in addition to giving many hours to the Veterans Administration - including more than 8,600 hours spent filing medical records.

Anna Webb

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