national volunteer month

By Bruce Eames, Board of Directors
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley

In honor of National Volunteer Month this April, I wanted to take an opportunity to share a few thoughts about what volunteering has meant to me, and why we need many more volunteers to help the hundreds of organizations locally that need our time and talent.
I came to the Lehigh Valley roughly 20 years ago through a job transfer, and immediately looked for opportunities to give back to the community. Since then, I’ve never tired from providing time; sometimes as little as an hour or two per week to help out with causes I’m passionate about. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for both Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley and the Southern Lehigh Public Library, and spent significant time volunteering and serving on the Board of Directors with the America On Wheels museum over the last decade, as well. In addition I also volunteer to consult with other not-for-profit organizations in the Lehigh Valley for various fundraising events.
When I first arrived in the community, I became active with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley, an organization that provides one-to-one mentoring services to children throughout Lehigh and Northampton counties. I didn’t know how becoming a Big Brother to a child in need would change my entire outlook on life.
My Little Brother at the time, Matt, was a shy, curious, very intelligent seven year old. Little did I know that we’d remain matched until his high school graduation and college acceptance 11 years later, and our friendship would grow throughout all those years. Amazingly, we still keep in touch a couple of times per year as he’s grown into adulthood. I always joke to my friends and colleagues that I got more out of the relationship than he did, and I’ve heard the same thing from countless other mentors over the years.
Soon after my match with Matt ended, I wanted to stay involved with the organization. I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Board of Directors, and have helped the organization as a fundraiser, event planner, advocate and now, again, as a Big Brother in one of our site-based programs in the Allentown School District.
Right now, Big Brothers Big Sisters is facing a shortage of male volunteers. In fact, over 200 boys between the ages of 7 and 13 years old are on our waiting list for a Big Brother in the Lehigh Valley. From personal experience, I can tell you that being a mentor is rewarding, and you only need to commit to 4-6 hours per month to make a difference. Nearly all of the children BBBSLV serves are facing struggles in school and at home. However, by spending just an hour per week, your time investment pays dividends. Your Little Brother, through a relationship with you, is more likely to achieve better grades, graduate from high school, go to college or trade school, and eventually make a difference in our community.
Clearly, I have a strong passion for the work BBBSLV performs, but I say this as a volunteer with many local organizations: we need your help, and if you have an hour or two to spare per week, you will make a positive difference for people and organizations in great need no matter the cause.
Why not make a pledge during National Volunteer Month to call an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters and ask how you can help? We all have different passions and talents, and as you can see from my track record, any of your personal or professional strengths can all be utilized to great effect in helping out a local nonprofit or school. I am confident that you will find this effort very rewarding and fulfilling.
Imagine how vibrant we could make our community if we all pledged just an hour of our time each week to give back. I made that pledge 20 years ago, and I know that my small time commitment has not only bettered the lives of many children, it’s made my life immensely more satisfying as well.