This week, April 19-25, is National Volunteer Week.

National Volunteer Week is a time to thank one of our nation’s most valuable assets — volunteers — and call the public’s attention to all that they do to improve our communities.

Sponsored nationally by the Points of Light Institute, National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Richard M. Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Every president since has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. The theme, “celebrating people in action,” truly captures the meaning behind this signature week — honoring the individuals who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.

What would small communities do without volunteers?  Persons who work on city councils, hospital boards, and many other types of community boards receive no pay, but do it because they want to serve.  Many places of entertainment utilize volunteers, such as museums, theatres, art shows and others.  Most cities have annual festivals or celebrations and depend on volunteers for to ensure their success.

Young students volunteer on summer projects; rather than spending their time going swimming, to the mall, or other fun things, they are swinging a hammer, painting, or performing other duties such as helping repair homes for folks that otherwise can’t afford them.  Students also volunteer in many ways by collecting for worthwhile causes, or running a race for financial pledges to help on special projects.

Lately, there have been many fires in Texas and Oklahoma; news reports revealed that the only ones fighting part of these devastating fires were volunteer firemen and women.  In some cases, there was assistance from professional support teams.  However, most of the time, smaller communities rely on their volunteer firemen and first responders.

Hospital volunteers help their hospital meet budget by doing all types of clerical work at no charge.  They also hold fundraisers in order to buy needed equipment, thereby freeing up the hospital to make other purchases.  Church members are permanent volunteers, doing all they are able to do to help out their communities in times of troubles.  And what on earth would we do in times of destruction: fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, just to name a few, if it weren’t for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and many other groups that depend on their volunteers to help them provide needed relief?

Whether doing a small thing, such as reading to someone in a nursing home, running errands, or cooking a meal for a family with a sick member, one can never know what that act of kindness means to others.  Anyone who can spare an hour or so any time should give volunteering a try.  The best reward a person can receive is knowing that they have given a part of themselves to make the world a better place.