“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

Rachel Pharr Lanning, selected the DVHH for her "Nonprofit - Volunteer" oriented project for a college class. Part of her assignment was to interview a Volunteer for a Nonprofit.  I suggested she interview Rose Mary Keller Hughes, a long time DVHH volunteer who wears many hats for our organization.  Rose Mary did an outstanding job depicting the heart of a volunteer and her assistance to Rachel was very much appreciated.  One of the best outcomes of this assignment is that Rachel has come to appreciate her "own" Donauschwaben heritage and hopes to be working with the DVHH in the future. ~Jody McKim Pharr, 08 Nov 2008


Being a Nonprofit Volunteer . . .

by Rose Mary Keller Hughes

First one would look at what motivates a person to do volunteer work of any kind . . . There are several factors . . . first of all one needs to have the time and then the commitment to stick to the task. 

     When volunteering you need to come to the realization that if you don't put your whole heart and effort into the activity you are not only letting others down but yourself as well because you are not being true to the original pledge to help. You have to truly believe in the cause or the organization for which you have decided to join or to help. I can best explain this by giving concrete examples: I was a volunteer for a  residential home for women and children because I believed I could use my office skills talents to help make the organization a better place for the women and children who needed assistance in turning their lives around.  I have volunteered with the DVHH because of my genealogical interest in the area of the world that DVHH researches; I also recognize that when you are in such a group you need to contribute in order for it to remain active and as vibrant as your mom has made it.  I believe you can't sit on the sidelines and just be a taker in this word--if you don't participate one day there won't be anything left.  I've been so lucky with the people I've met on the Internet (your mother is an important one) and I've appreciated all the help they've given me . . . it's now time for me to "pay forward."  I  am a firm believer in sharing and I am happy and excited to pass on what I have benefited from.  I have just become a volunteer member of an Ancestry.com beta group that transcribes documents (I have been working on Wisconsin death registers) that will be made available (for free they tell me) for all to use--pretty exciting to be part of that team, too!

     Another important factor is that you have to truly believe in the organization and it's goals.  DVHH is the epitome of an organization that lives up to its original goals and has even expanded on those aims originally set forth.  The name speaks of its goals so beautifully  Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands.  This organization is so unique in that your mother has brought together these people who are encouraged to help one another and we daily learn new things from each other.  The members truly hold out their helping hands to not only the members but people who leave feedback asking for assistance.  We are encouraged to become coordinators for the villages of our ancestry and your mom has been such tremendous help in the design of my ancestral village (Semlak). Space is made available on the DVHH site to create pages for our villages and we have made contact with others seeking information for specific villages.
 
     We are also encouraged to add new bits to the site and after your mother approached me originally on the idea, we finally put together  the "Movers and Shakers" page to honor those who go above and beyond in helping others (once again emphasizing the reason for the DVHH site and organization).  Here is how I go about "choosing" someone--a name is suggested and we verify whether the person is truly someone who has done extra special things for people researching the Donauschwaben ethnics.  I have a template I've created to send out to the person and I ask the "Mover and Shaker" to respond to the questions on the form and then return it to me.  I then put the final piece in question and answer format and send it to your mother who adds it to the site. Both your mother and I believe it is important to  recognize these people who are so generous of spirit--take a glance at the page and see what I mean.  They are good people who think first of others.  I have tried and tried to get your mother to be interviewed but she just won't--she has the most generous spirit of all.
 
     Another thing we did along similar lines was the Footsteps site where people can nominate someone from the DVHH membership for  their kindness and research help.  I'm going to have to suggest that people think of those who have helped them since no one has been nominated for some time.
 
 Then there is the Cooking Section.  Periodically there is a rush of messages where people are asking about recipes or remarking on them in relation to a holiday. So your mom and I decided we should put these recipes on the site--some members even take photos as they are preparing the food!  It's interesting the amount of feedback I've received from people visiting the site who thank us for having such and such a recipe there--a recipe they remember from their younger days.
 
     Volunteering on the Internet has opened a whole new idea of volunteerism.  While I am now 77 years old, I am still pretty good health wise but there are other senior citizens who are not--yet, they can sit at their computers and get involved in a wonderful and active way. Many of the members of DVHH are senior citizens--I think the reason is that you don't start thinking of your ancestry until you get closer to the end of your life and you want to know from whence you came and you want to pass it on to your children and grandchildren.
 
     Internet volunteering is also wonderful for people (young and old) who are confined to their homes due to a sickness or even those  confined for a long time in the hospital.  My daughter died before the Internet became what it is today. She would have loved volunteering with a group such as DVHH--she loved researching, could type, and would have been thrilled to meet so many people on a list such as the DVHH.  Volunteering is just a form of becoming involved in something with your heart and soul--it's  a way to reach out to others.
 
     So, Rachel, what is my mindset?  I am a genealogical volunteer--but most specifically on the DVHH--because I believe that if I am  going to be a part of a group/club/Rootsweb list I must be a contributor.  What skills can I offer?  I am a fast typist, I like people who I can  interview, I like sharing what I have learned genealogically, my background as a retired high school business teacher, I have good English skills, and I always finish what I have started.  What do I get from volunteering?  Satisfaction . . . in still being a contributing member of society, in helping others, in being creative, and in expanding my world of friends. The mindset of a genealogical volunteer is really no different from the mindset of any other kind of volunteer. We are all interested in sharing . . . ourselves.
 
With great wishes that your find your DVHH volunteering a positive experience,
Rose Mary

[Published at DVHH.org 08 Nov 2008 by Jody McKim Pharr]

 


           

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