Right to the Point (Aug. 28, 2008)

Aug. 28, 2008
By Mike Benevento

You can make a difference — consider yourself asked

Everyone loves a champion, and that is what Williston’s 11- and 12-year-old Little League All-Stars are. Coached by Jeff Smith and Will Mikell, and led by Vermont’s July Male Athlete of the Month Davis Mikell, the team came within two wins of making the Little League World Series. Like many community organizations, unsung volunteers help make the Williston Little League program a success.

From President Tim O’Brien and Vice President Greg Bolger all the way down to Bill Small, Dennis Lalancette, Rick Reed and other umpires, volunteers fuel the league’s success. Even people with roles not directly involved in the game, like concessions coordinator Mary Beth Bergkvist, Joel Klein, Paul Reiss, Treasurer Gene McCue and player agent Todd Norton, make an impact. Without these and many other volunteers, many Williston girls and boys would not have played softball or baseball this past summer.

President John F. Kennedy said during his 1961 Inaugural Address, “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” If you are not already a volunteer, now is the time for you to start doing for your country by becoming one.

Consider the changes you want to see in this world. Support these ideas not just by donating your money, but by giving your time and energy to various causes. Set a good example for the younger generation. If possible, empower the young by involving your family when you volunteer. Doing so will multiply the amount of goodwill in our local community.

Do you remember how immediately after Sept. 11 people changed their lives and devoted more time to their family, friends, and community? Following the terrorist attacks, people went out of their way to help others. We need to get that giving spirit back into our community — and sustain it.

For example, following the attacks, Americans donated so much blood that the Red Cross appeared to be awash in it. However, the blood supply quickly dwindled and was not replenished. People forgot the need for giving blood was year round, not just the months following the attacks.

Only 5 percent of eligible donors give blood each year. As the Red Cross states, “Many people say they have never given blood because they haven’t been asked. Please, consider yourself asked. The need is real. The need is now.”

On a different type of giving, one of my most exciting summers was when I volunteered on Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie’s 2004 reelection campaign. My job was to interview the leadership of more than 30 Vermont associations. After we discussed their concerns, I then presented my findings to Dubie so he could better help them out. Although Brian and I have known each other since our youth, you can volunteer and help Republicans even if you haven’t personally met them.

With the political season nearing its peak, all levels of the Republican Party need your support. In Williston, good people you may know like Brennan Duffy and Shelley Palmer are running for state representative. Please contact them or Williston’s Republican Party chairman Chris Roy for information on how to help.

At the state level, Dubie and Gov. Jim Douglas are up for reelection (www.vtgop.org). Finally, at the national level, John McCain needs our help to win in the pivotal presidential race against Barack Obama (www.rnc.org).

Non-political organizations looking for assistance include Make-A-Wish Foundation (864-9393), Vermont ALS Association (846-7386), Salvation Army (864-6991) and Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf (658-7939). Former military members interested in assisting National Guard personnel and their families should consider joining the Vermont State Guard (338-3045).

Many businesses get involved with charity work. Williston’s UPS is a big United Way supporter. Oftentimes, companies give employees paid time off to assist charities. When I worked at Vertek, we served monthly meals for the Salvation Army’s Kitchen Feeding Program. My current employer, EPS, gives employees time off to work for Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and other charities. Check with your employer to see if you can do the same.

Remember, the need for volunteers is year round, not just during the holidays. While my column highlighted some volunteer organizations, it is far from an exhaustive list. There are many organizations in need of your support. Pick some that align with your interests and get involved. How often would you have done something had you known they needed your help?

Like the Red Cross says, “Consider yourself asked.”

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.