(originally printed in the North Kitsap Herald on April 14, 2017)
Michael, a teenager who I thought had completed his mandated community service hours with us, was waiting in Fishline’s lobby. He told me he had 30 minutes. My heart sank. “But I thought you were finished!” I said. “What about the court deadline?” I continued, starting to panic a little for him. He began volunteering in our market as part of Kitsap County’s diversion program, aimed to keep youth out of the court system by providing them with an opportunity to give back to the community. He had been “volun-told.”
Fishline is a popular choice for many required to perform community service hours, whether due to traffic tickets or as part of their school’s Honor’s Society. But it’s not just those fulfilling their community service who are drawn here. We currently have nearly 300 active volunteers. Some have been volunteering here for decades. Some use Fishline’s services, like the food market. Some are retired, others have full-time jobs. Are these 300 people just exceptional individuals? Well, yes (after all, they may be reading this!), but there’s more to the story of volunteerism…
Many of the ways that Fishline and other not-for-profit organizations help are pretty obvious—paying a utility bill in the dead of winter or providing a home-bound senior with groceries, for example. But the less apparent needs that are fulfilled here are arguably just as important, maybe even more so. We all recognize that as humans we have non-physical needs, like a sense of connection. I know you can’t eat a warm and fuzzy feeling, yet a number of studies have shown a correlation between a sense of community belonging with both physical and mental health.
And our volunteers are connected! A beloved volunteer passed away last year. A group of his friends regularly wear a t-shirt with his photo on it. One volunteer wrote out birthday cards for every single Fishline volunteer one year. Another makes apple cake twice a week to feed her fellow volunteers. I could go on and on. The culture of our community is one that seeks to bring out the best in people, even in the worst of circumstances.
Back to Michael, the teenager. He clarified. He wasn’t here because he had to be. He had a rough day at school, had some time before he had to be anywhere else, and missed being here. As a skeptic of altruism, I believe that what truly motivates a person to begin volunteering is complicated. What keeps them coming back isn’t.
National Volunteer Week will be observed April 23-29 this year. If you are interested in volunteering with North Kitsap Fishline, please contact their Volunteer Manager by email (email@example.com) or phone (360-779-4191). We’re also pleased to announce that NK Fishline will be one of the beneficiaries of this year’s United States Postal Service Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Stop by NK Fishline (Viking and Liberty Lane in Poulsbo) on Saturday, May 13th between noon-5pm to donate, observe, or volunteer.