Volunteer Week meets Arbor Day in Oregon

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by Kay Helbling

The unselfish giving of thousands of folks in Oregon who volunteer each year is remarkable. (see Volunteers in Oregon, the Backbone of Our Economy, OregonWomensReport 1-29-09). An example of this can best be described by my recent introduction to a group in our local parish called “Mary’s Cousins”. Not unlike other volunteer activities, these women come together to fill a need and warm hearts.

During one morning service, our Pastor asked all the women in Mary’s Cousins to stand. One after another, all around me stood women wearing crocheted and knitted shawls—a myriad of style and color.
But these shawls weren’t for them. Instead, they made the shawls for members of the community who were experiencing a life threatening or life changing challenge. If the recipient feels a spiritual lift as they wrap the shawl around their shoulders, it is no wonder. The name of the folks in emotional need are offered up to Mary’s Cousins. While stitches are added, prayers are said for that individual or family.

Even workers at the State of Oregon are joining the volunteer forces. In celebrations of Oregon’s 150th Anniversary, state agencies will volunteer time through service projects aimed at grassroots improvements to local communities. The agencies “Take Care of Oregon Days” projects began in February with a tree planting ceremony on the Capitol Mall.  They will plant 150 trees between February and National Arbor Day, which will be celebrated this week on April 24. Other projects will include building a Habitat for Humanity house, improving transitional housing for newly released prisoners and cleaning up a series of state parks.

During this National Volunteer Week we thank the women of Mary’s Cousins and groups like them, the folks at the State of Oregon,  and all the other organizations and individuals across the country who volunteer their time for the benefit of others. They give more of themselves than they are ever asked.

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.