Friday, March 09, 2007

My sister was a Vista volunteer

When my sister graduated with her MS in Math, she had a career choice to make. Either become a computer programmer at a local company or be a Vista volunteer. She went and got an offer to work at both (she is energetic). This was a while back and I think the programming job was for almost $40k and full benefits, the Vista volunteer was minimum wage or nothing (can't remember anymore). Her husband was finishing his PhD and she had a year or two to wait. She decided to become a Vista Volunteer.

She went to work at a homeless shelter, getting the clients back into school and helping them get scholarships. I asked her once, why did you decide to take so much less money and volunteer. She told me she loved the town and wanted to do something good for the people. My thought that being a computer programmer is the most noble profession, didn't fly. :)

I ask you, did my sister do the wrong thing becoming a vista volunteer? Is it OK to take less money to help things you love along?

I have chosen to make much less money while I live in Carbondale, is that wrong? There are many professors who are talking less money to work at SIU is that wrong?

Of late, I have been getting the feeling that people in Carbondale feel that anyone who volunteers or takes less money to help the community is somehow doing something underhanded. Isn't it OK to give back to your community for reasons that don't include money?

What do you think? Have you done any unpaid volunteer work lately? Are the people who do volunteer work wasting their time, if they aren't paid enough?

Your comments are always welcome.


Anonymous said...

And would you be back here in Carbondale making less money if you hadn't already started a successful tech company that you sold for a large profit, that allows you to live in Carbondale and do things you enjoy without worrying about money?

Anonymous said...

Your sister is probably the only one of us who has any real guts. She's doing what she thinks is right, money be damned. People like that are hard to find. Peter, you are lucky.

Gary Walkup said...

I haven't noticed people looking at me like I'm doing something underhanded, but I haven't seen people rushing to jump on the volunteer bandwagon, either.

When I was but a callow youth, I joined the Boy Scouts, and was fortunate that my Troop was blessed by a good leader, and I had a GREAT Scouting experience.

Because of the quality experience I had, I became a Scout leader myself when my son was old enough to join (at age 6). He's graduating from SIU this semester, so you can see how long I've been involved. Like 17 years. Sure, being a Scout leader doesn't require the time commitment that being a Vista volunteer does, but it doesn't pay as well, either. Most leaders spend between 50-70 hours a month (including weekend camping trips, week-long summer camp, and the special 2-week long high-adventure expeditions)and we don't get paid, but we pay to go, frequently using our personal vehicles for transportation, our money for gas,and our vacation for the time to make this happen.

Why do we do this? Simple. We believe in the Scouting program. What IS disappointing is the fact that many of the leaders are the very same ones I saw when I got "re-involved" 17 years ago. Not only are are the youth of Scout age (6-17) not as excited about typical Scout activities such as hiking and camping, many of their parents are even LESS enthusiastic. Like there's no air-conditioning in my tent? Like I have to WALK on a hike? Where can I plug my X-box in? My cell-phone doesn't work! While there ARE a few new faces, they are few and far between.

So, no, people don't look at me like I'm doing something underhanded. It's more like I'm doing something really stupid.

Peter in Carbondale said...

No, I wouldn't be in Carbondale if I still needed to work. But what I wanted to do here wasn't possible for someone with less economic means.

My sister is a really fine person. She always does what is right for society first. She now has a few kids and has a bumper sticker on her car that reads something like, "Only when everyone does better, does everyone do better." I always liked that idea.

Way to go Gary! There have been many times were I couldn't decided if I should hire them and being an Eagle Scout was the decider. Those guys never made me sorry. Fighting the elements in Southern Illinois is a real Wooden Ships and Iron Men kind of thing.

As usual, I'm going to wrap this idea into something else so stay tuned.