The numbers say that 10 years ago, 21 percent of the disabled adults served by DEC performed volunteer work out in the community. In five years, that number ballooned to 54 percent. Today, 65 percent of the individuals served by DEC happily donate their time, talent and even their modest resources as volunteers, serving the needs of others.
During the past year alone, people served by DEC voluntarily donated upwards of 3,000 hours to performing acts of community service. Among them: Pat, a 56-year-old Souderton resident who — with his effervescent personality, exuberant smile and willingness to help — seems convinced that we’ve all been put on this Earth to help one another.
Under the guidance and supervision of Clare Sweeney, director of DEC’s North Penn Center, Pat is a volunteer at Manna on Main Street — doing his part to end hunger in the Lansdale area by stocking food pantry shelves with bread, the staff of life, so that those in need may be fed.
“I’m lucky,” he affirms. “I love my parents and they love me. I make money at my job, and I have enough food to eat. I want to help those who don’t have enough food, so that they won’t be hungry.”
DEC staff eagerly seek out volunteer opportunities for the men and women they serve, encouraging them to focus on their abilities, not their limitations. In growing numbers, individuals are packing and delivering healthy meals to sick and elderly shut-ins; collecting winter clothing so children from impoverished homes can keep warm while traveling to and from school; lending a hand at no-kill rescue shelters, where sick, injured, stray and abandoned animals receive the love and care they deserve while awaiting their forever homes; raising much-needed funds for community causes and charities, even beautifying public parks by participating in local clean-up campaigns. While encouraged to serve the needs of others, participating volunteers learn an important life lesson: we do good for ourselves by doing good for others.
Explains Clare Sweeney: “Community service teaches our individuals valuable employment skills, such as how to understand and follow directions, which will help them qualify for future employment opportunities. They also learn the value of teamwork, to be independent, efficient and to take on responsibilities. The socialization skills that they develop teach them to interact and get along with others, to build relationships and to comfortably engage in conversation. And while they’re taught that we all share a responsibility to help the less fortunate, our volunteers get the chance to do things that they genuinely enjoy. It all comes down to this:
we help ourselves in so many ways
when we take the time and make
the effort to help others.”