For those who have walked away, those who have come back and those who are here now: 20th anniversary celebration

Twelve years ago, I walked away from Hands On Charlotte.

It was not that I did not enjoy my time at Hands On Charlotte projects or the camaraderie with other volunteers. Life was too busy. There were just too many other priorities. My family and my career came first. Volunteering always ended up at the bottom of my agenda.

Although my volunteerism came to a halt, I still came face to face with the tremendous needs of the economically challenged in our community and the non-profit agencies, which aim to help individuals and families, survive. It was my job to connect with these people and organizations to share their stories through my work as a television news reporter. Viewers seemed to respond to the news coverage and were often eager to help. It was nice to know that my work sometimes made a difference.

Last year, I changed careers.

It was time to step away from the hectic and sometimes chaotic life that comes with working in TV news. It was a chance to focus on other priorities. I still needed an outlet to help the people I came to know through my previous job. It was time to come back to Hands On Charlotte.

Because I had been absent for 11 years, I needed to attend another orientation session. I stood in a circle of new volunteers at the Hands On Charlotte office and listened to introductions. My eyes wandered around the room.

“Wait, what is that?” I thought to myself. “Is that…that’s my signature on the wall!”

I had completely forgotten about my first orientation back in 1999. Twelve years later, I was staring at my handprint and signature from when I had first signed up with Hands On Charlotte.

As I looked at the other handprints on the walls, I wondered how many of those other volunteers had attended orientation, signed the wall, participated in one or two Hands On Charlotte projects and then stopped volunteering.

Hands On Charlotte was there for me in 1999. It welcomed me back in 2010.

It’s staggering to think of the number of people who have stood in a circle at a Hands On Charlotte orientation since the organization’s founding in 1991. It’s comforting to know you can walk away when needed and come back when you’re ready to go to work.

Next week, Hands On Charlotte is celebrating all of the people who have walked away, the people who have come back and the people who are here now.

The party, marking HOC’s 20th anniversary, begins at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 29th at Taco Mac in Piedmont Row, near SouthPark Mall. Light appetizers will be provided, along with a cash bar.

The celebration is also an opportunity to introduce your friends, colleagues and family to the volunteer opportunities Hands On Charlotte provides. Because new volunteers will help ensure HOC is around for the next 20 years, with doors open whenever you are ready to come back.

Mark Boone
Hands On Charlotte volunteer
HOC Media and Communications Committee member