By ALICIA LEONARD
Many believe that how much one makes or what car one drives is the measure of success but, Benjamin Franklin believed that improving the lives of his fellow man was the truest measure of success. Under that ideal, volunteers are some of the most successful people one can know.
Volunteers throughout Walton County will gather to celebrate and be celebrated at Volunteer Recognition Day. Agencies, organizations and civic groups will gather with the public to recognize volunteers for their dedication and commitment to helping others and making Walton County a better place to live.
This event will be held at the Life Enrichment Senior Center, located at 312 College Ave., on April 23 from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. All citizens are encouraged to attend and to show their appreciation for those who dedicate themselves to volunteerism. The organizers, Communities For a Lifetime (CFL) Advisory Committee of Walton County, are hoping it will become an annual county-wide event. Hamburgers, hot-dogs are on the menu and there’ll be entertainment from North West Florida State College (NWFSC) Show Choir.
One of Walton’s own busiest volunteers, J.B. Hillard, will have to miss the event. Hillard has been selected to receive the 2009 Golden Choice Volunteer Award from the Florida Department of Elders Affairs as one who “inspires by example.” Elders Affairs officials noted that Hillard was selected for the award because, “his work helps to improve the quality of life for all Floridians.” Hillard said he was humbled upon learning that he had been chosen. “I sat here and wondered about it. It caught me off guard.”
One on the main themes of CFL is awareness, said Hillard. “To let people learn to be aware the everyday rules and regulations that affect their lives is a very big focus of CFL and to keep reminding people that we have a strong intergenerational component to the organization, even though we often focus on senior citizens. We have such great cooperation with all of the citizens and local organizations.” Hillard is especially of a recent agreement between the Chautauqua Cyber Club and the 4-H Club. “We are going to work together to provide free computers to kids, age three to 12. We are going to try and make these available to kids that can’t afford computers. I’m excited about that.”
Hillard said that volunteerism represents a great opportunity for young and old alike. “I know it’s easier for our retired citizens to volunteers because they have raised their families. That’s where our retired volunteers fill a void, because they have more time, but I would urge everyone who can, to get involved in something they can feel good about. It helps build a stronger community.”
Hillard said that Franklin’s take on success probably, unconsciously, drives many volunteers. “They just know they do it because it feels good to help others, but helping others is a great measure of success. There is always something to be involved in, you just have to look,” he said. “I hope this annual recognition day, in the future, can be used to let organizations recruit other volunteers. The volunteer spirit helps make a community. People who volunteer stay ‘plugged into life.’ They are happy, upbeat and always looking for the next thing to do. Can you imagine what this world would be like without volunteers? I do the things I do because I enjoy being a part of things. It keeps me going. I’m 72 this week and I need a few more years of activity. I’m not sure what 72 is supposed to feel like, but I feel alive and energized and I just keep going.”