UP FOR DISCUSSION … Today is National Volunteer Recognition Day – the start of an entire week where we are called to recognize and thank volunteers across the country. This year’s theme is “Celebrate Service”. As caregivers, shouldn’t we be acknowledged as volunteers for our service to others?

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In googling National Month of Recognition for Volunteers, I find it is in April and learn that historically it has followed the same evolution I find for many of these “national” observances – it began as a single day of remembrance by some group who cared about the topic, at some point the day expanded into a full week of activities, and ultimately those events got lumped into a month of national observances that sometimes even show up on calendars as a National “fill-in-the-blank” Month!  For volunteers the day of recognition this year is April 20th, the week is April 21-27, 2024 and the month is all of April. What is interesting about this year’s Volunteer Appreciation events is that I could find no organization mentioning or celebrating caregivers as part of their Recognition for Volunteers observance!  For a worthy cause that has been around in some form since 1985, I find that fascinating.

The definition of purpose I find in my searches around this year’s observations say things like “acknowledging the power of volunteer service” and “celebrating the impact volunteers have on society” or brief discussions about the economic significance of volunteer labor and other spending related to individuals’ philanthropic work.  Of interest, nowhere in the list of recognized behaviors, time, or impact could I find the words family caregiver.  Even as the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregivers tells us there are currently more than 53 million Americans serving as caregivers and AARP’s 2023 study entitled Valuing the Invaluable documented family caregivers as the “backbone of the country’s long-term care system” with an estimated economic impact of almost $600 billions of value from their unpaid contributions of both time and service each year, nowhere could I find a reference to these caregivers being viewed as the very volunteers we might want to recognize.

Our church ministry supporting caregivers not only witnesses the amazing impact of these “volunteers” on the lives of so many they endeavor to help on a daily basis, but their gifts are multiplied by the time and passion many of them pour into educating other caregivers and in the hours of sharing that goes on constantly intended to ease the journey for others based on their own hard-earned personal experiences.  Caregivers helping other caregivers, along with aiding their family members or friends dealing with life-altering illnesses.  Volunteers of the finest example for fulfilling the wish to recognize and “Celebrate Service”!

Many of the observances I researched included a common theme about HOW to recognize these volunteers.  A thank you note, a gift card, a phone call for no other purpose than to say thank you, a small bouquet of flowers, an event that included a meal, a simple hug of gratitude.  Wow!  What family caregiver wouldn’t enjoy something simple and unexpected as a show of appreciation for their service.  It is the beginning of National Volunteer Recognition Week … might you have a caregiver in your life who deserves to be recognized … as a way to celebrate their service to others!

 

 

UP FOR DISCUSSION:  Do you do anything to celebrate volunteers?  As a caregiver, have you even thought of your service as volunteer work?  Might there be a family caregiver close to you who might enjoy being celebrated during National Volunteer Recognition Month?    Please, share your comments below.

 

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