Who's behind Celebrate Volunteers?

Post Last Updated: 2 years ago

Who’s behind Celebrate Volunteers?  I’m sure some of you have wondered; who’s behind Celebrate Volunteers?  It’s me!  I’m Linda Llewellyn, founder of Celebrate Volunteers.  I am an accidental volunteer manager.  It wasn’t a career I studied for or chose, but one that found me by accident.

I began my professional career as a social worker in a domestic violence shelter.  I loved my work; however, after 3 years and a budget deficit for the organization, I found myself laid off.  I saw this as a sign that it was time to move from Phoenix to sunny southern California.  So, in pursuing a job that would facilitate this goal, I found employment as an inside sales representative for a temporary staffing agency that let me live in Redondo Beach, CA.  What a real-life education!  I learned much about corporate America while interviewing, assigning temporary employees to various positions and providing supervision from afar.  In this position, I didn’t love my work.  The aerospace industry crash in the early 1990’s led to my 2nd layoff in just over 5 years of college graduation.  What a relief!

I knew it was time to move back into the nonprofit world.  I began searching and interviewing for a variety of positions in the nonprofit community of Los Angeles.  I was blessed with an Executive Director who looked at my resume depicting my work as a social worker and temporary personnel supervisor and keenly saw a volunteer coordinator.  This began my life-long career in volunteer management and my love of volunteers and their impact.

I worked for just over 2 years at the South Bay Free Clinic in Manhattan Beach, CA managing about 350 volunteers serving in 4 sites in our medical, dental, HIV/AIDS, and legal programs.  I loved working with volunteers!  I loved seeing the generosity and compassion people brought to volunteering.  I loved seeing the miracles that happened in their service as each shared their time and talents in unique ways.

I met students who loved learning and providing basic medical services, attorneys and dentists who loved providing their professional skills to people who couldn’t afford them, compassionate volunteers who supported and educated people after receiving an HIV test, and a young man with developmental challenges that thrived when his talents were needed.

Life took me back to Phoenix in 1994, where I was blessed with a position as the Director of Volunteer Services for a small hospital. The volunteer program and I thrived as I honed my skills and steadily grew the services provided by volunteers as the hospital steadily grew after merging with another hospital system.

I loved working with volunteers; meeting new people, discovering their talents and seeing the impact of their contribution, benefiting the hospital and our patients and visitors.  It was such a joy and a never-ending, ever-changing journey.  Before I knew it, nearly twenty years had passed.

By the time I left HonorHealth in 2014, my program had grown to over a 1000 active volunteers ranging in age from 14 to 95 each month serving in over 200 different capacities.  The volunteers contributed nearly 150,000 hours of service each year, but it was in their unique contributions that I saw the true impact of volunteers and their unique contribution.

I was awed by working with a woman who volunteered for 35,000 hours over 35 years in medical staff services providing administrative support, a man who shared his professional skills in project management with the recovery department to enhance their services, a man who touched the life of a dying patient by sharing meaningful interactions in his last days, a pet therapy team whose visit with a comatose ICU patient resulted in the patient waking up, hundreds of volunteers who sorted, packed and assisted customers at our food bank, a woman who called bingo in the most engaging way in adult day health care, and thousands of other great volunteers who brought compassion, joy and support to those in need while enhancing the hospital’s services in every way imaginable.

The two constants over the years were the volunteers, great people who were willing to help, and a nagging desire to be able to provide better, more meaningful recognition to the volunteers.  It seemed impossible to thank them enough, to really appreciate them as they deserved and to let each one know how they, uniquely, made an impact. This frustration grew over my last five years or so, especially when challenged to nominate one volunteer for a local award program.  How could I pick one out of so many great people! How likely was it that they would receive the honor as it was a competitive award!  How frustrating!   I wanted every volunteer to feel the honor of an award, to have a moment in the spotlight when the world would learn the story of who they are and the impact of their service.  I wanted every volunteer to know how much they were valued by me and the organization.  So, the concept of Celebrate Volunteers was inspired.

In the next blog article, learn about the vision of Celebrate Volunteers, here’s a short introduction where you can meet me in person, well, almost in person.

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