With Make a Difference Day approaching tomorrow, I’m reminded that, the first time I volunteered, a pure, altruistic spirit was not my driving force. To tell the truth, I was volun”told.” It was strongly suggested that I volunteer; it looked good on my college application; it looked good on my résumé.
Funny thing happened though—I kept going even after I met the requirements. I was hooked. I really enjoyed getting out of myself and making a difference. Little did I know, I would eventually work in the nonprofit sector, move on to the world of corporate community outreach, and then have the privilege to join the Southwest Airlines Family nearly five years ago helping to connect our Company with the needs of others. My Team—Community Programs—is all about supporting Employee volunteerism. Each day we are honored to be of service to all of our Southwest and AirTran Employee volunteers. Our purpose is to provide programs, tools, and resources that connect our Servant’s Hearts to service opportunities across the country.
Some may wonder, can one person make a difference? Can I make a difference? Each of us has the power to make a difference for charitable organizations, the clients/populations they serve, and the mission they strive to fulfill just by giving our time; and you can start this weekend. Saturday, October 26, is Make a Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor this celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Go to www.makeadifference.org and decide how you will join millions of volunteers from around the world to improve the lives of others.
No matter your area of interest, skill level, or time commitment, there is a volunteer opportunity waiting for you. Virtual opportunities are good for those who need flexibility and may want to squeeze something in after the kids go to bed, or in between classes. Make it a family affair. Spend quality time with loved ones while you help others in need. Build camaraderie, build great Teams, and help build a stronger community by volunteering alongside Coworkers. Whether you volunteer one hour or 100 hours—once a year or once a week—every hour counts. No matter the reason, no matter the season, every little bit really does matter. Not sure what to do? Here are a few sites to search volunteer opportunities: www.volunteermatch.org, www.serve.gov, www.allforgood.org, and www.handsonnetwork.org.
Southwest and AirTran Employees are making a difference every day in communities across the country. Last year our Employees logged nearly 138,000 volunteer hours—that’s sweat equity valued at over $3 million for the organizations they served! At Southwest, we have added incentive—when Employees give back, Southwest gives back. For every 40 hours one or more of our Employees volunteer for a nonprofit organization or school, the benefiting organization is eligible to receive one complimentary, roundtrip ticket on Southwest up to six roundtrip tickets in a calendar year. Since its inception, our Tickets for Time program has generated 5,742 roundtrip tickets for charitable organizations and schools nationwide—all thanks to our Southwest Employee Volunteers. That equates to nearly $2.3 million dollars in tickets given to organizations to use to support their mission. Now that is making a difference from the heart.
Check out the video to see a group of Southwest Airlines Employees volunteering at a local elementary school celebrating Servant’s Heart Day, a Companywide Day of Service.
It’s your turn. Go out and make a difference! Happy volunteering.