After moving to Lynchburg in 2008, I was desperately trying to “find my place in this world”—as Michael W. Smith poignantly described in his 1990 song. Just a green 24-year-old adjusting to a new job and trying to (awkwardly) make new friends.
I started looking for ways to get more connected and learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia through a co-worker. With a camp counselor background, it was a no-brainer. After signing up, I was matched with an 11-year-old girl named Nicole who had just recently been adopted by her foster family.
Life had been tough for Nicole the past few years—lots of people had come and gone.
We spent Saturdays going to movies, hanging out at my apartment or working on projects for her school. She talked to me about her family some days; other days we just focused on fun. I arranged for her to get baptized—something she had always wanted to do since becoming a Christian in a previous foster home. Down the road, she was there to celebrate with me on my wedding day.
With an entry-level salary that barely paid my rent, I didn’t have much money to hand over to Big Brothers Big Sisters. But what I did have was a few hours each week to give to Nicole—and so many nonprofits are desperate for just that… your time.
In fact, about half of the top 25 nonprofits featured in this year’s Giving Back Awards listed “volunteers” as their greatest need right now. For example, Gleaning for the World, our #1 nonprofit, has only 11 paid employees that run its international disaster relief efforts—an astounding 1,200 volunteers help keep the place running.
There are numerous other inspiring stories of volunteerism in this issue—from dozens of artists who donated their talents to a Beacon of Hope auction fundraiser to our Person of Interest, David Stokes, who logs 950 volunteer hours a year helping local veterans.
You’ll find two kinds of holiday spirit in this issue—the festive baked goods, beautiful Christmas décor and local gift ideas will have you ready to slip on those Santa jammies ASAP. But my hope is you’ll also embrace the spirit of giving. Not just throwing a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket, but being so bold as to ask a local nonprofit: what can I do to serve you?
It may be as simple as lending an ear to an 11-year-old girl.
Shelley Basinger, Managing Editor