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Volunteering for Financial Aid and Beyond

August 29, 2011

Don Buehrer, Regional Director

When I was about 7 years old, my Dad began taking me to our town’s community center every Saturday morning. We joined our fellow citizens who were gathered to “volunteer” their time and efforts in assisting the township and other agencies, who relied on volunteers to fulfill their obligations. I really didn’t like getting up early on a Saturday morning, but my reward was two freshly-made soft pretzels from a street-corner vendor. (For Easterners, these pretzels rated just behind the chestnuts roasting on an open fire in downtown New York). As I got older, I realized that my Dad had set me up. He wasn’t rewarding me with pretzels…he was showing me the importance of volunteering…and the more I volunteered and saw how my efforts were making a difference, the more I really became rewarded.

In 2009, 63.4 million Americans volunteered over 8.1 billion hours to assist numerous causes, agencies and communities. This effort has been valued at nearly $170 billion. 

Since I’ve spent all of my financial aid and student loan years in RMASFAA and SWASFAA, I thought I’d review how volunteers have been valuable to these two organizations. We certainly can draw parallels with NASFAA and the other regional and state associations as well.

RMASFAA members recently received a series of emails from Jeff Jacobs, RMASFAA President-Elect (Bismarck State College, ND) that highlighted the RMASFAA committees that have the highest need for volunteers.  He noted that all RMASFAA committees do exceptional work in promoting the mission of the Association and encouraged each member to consider volunteering for a RMASFAA committee. For those of you familiar with RMASFAA’s Summer Institute….this event would not be possible without the annual volunteer efforts of dozens of financial aid professionals. And this single event, run solely by volunteers, has shaped the lives and careers of many in the financial aid profession. It would be interesting to see just how many volunteer hours RMASFAA logs each year with their 12 committees.

SWASFAA’s Boot Camp annually draws individuals from other regions as well. All efforts, including curriculum development, site selection, contracts, training and even making copies are done by volunteers. SWASFAA has 16 committees, including Conference Planning, Electronic Initiatives and Long Range Planning. Volunteers are the backbone of the organization and steer the association’s agenda.

As our country faces deficit spending challenges and most likely cut-backs in numerous programs, all of us will be called upon to offer our talents and time to assist each other. Whether we are mentoring our youth or our fellow professionals, whether we’re serving our communities, churches or shelters, we all have the talents to assist.

Allow me to share some of my favorite quotes related to volunteering.

Muhammed Ali, one of the greatest boxers of all-time said, “Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on earth.”

Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom noted, “We make a living by WHAT we do, but we make a LIFE by what we give.”

Ah, I still remember the taste of those warm pretzels and trying to finish them before I got home, so my brother couldn’t have any of them. But it never really was about the pretzels, was it Dad? It was about teaching me a lesson in life, about giving of yourself to help others. And what a great lesson it was. As a volunteer firefighter in Yankton, SD, I got to drive a fire truck, something that I wanted to do at age 7. I’m now involved as a volunteer with our community’s police department in Texas. Thanks to the financial aid associations, church programs and little league baseball for giving me the opportunity to volunteer. “The greatest service to yourself is service to others!” –Unknown

Perhaps seven-year old Kalynn Dobbs says it best, “When kids volunteer, it tells others that they don’t have to be perfect or famous or even grown-up to make a difference.”

I hope you can give of yourself so that YOU can truly make a difference.

Don Buehrer

Regional Director

Nelnet Partner Solutions


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