A volunteering story by: Jeremy Tecktiel

Emily decided to find a way to give back. She was surprised to see how many opportunities there were to use her graphic design skills to help others. She found a posting from American Cancer Society looking for a virtual volunteer graphic designer, and immediately reached out to them. The mission of American Cancer Society is to eliminate cancer as a major health concern through public health education, cancer research, and patient programs and services to ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

As a virtual volunteer, Emily wasn’t able to meet with her volunteer coordinator in person. Training consisted of a few e-mails and links to examples of what we were trying to accomplish through Emily’s work. And it was exciting work. ACS is currently undertaking one of the largest cancer prevention studies in the world – Cancer Prevention Study-3. This historic study is like no other in the United States and will provide researchers and health professionals with knowledge to develop future technologies, treatments, screenings, and prevention strategies in years to come. Emily’s job was to create infographic marketing materials to encourage people to sign up for Cancer Prevention Study-3.
Sometimes it can be challenging to collaborate with someone from afar and talk via email, but we had great communication. Any questions I had about the project she was able to answer very clearly for me. By providing an infographic, the study became far more shareable via social media and other online platforms. Additionally, Emily’s design is transferrable to all of the other enrollment sites across the country for the study, so the impact of her work can grow exponentially.

The Inspiration

Like many Millennials, Emily has a lot of fun at work. As a graphic designer, she does work for some very successful companies, and she finds her projects quite rewarding. But there’s always been something missing. It’s always been important to her that she does something personally to help people or organizations that spend their days making a difference. It gives work a lot more meaning to her. Due to this, she always wanted to volunteer, but she didn’t enjoy any of the volunteer experiences she had been through. They were all manual labor or other things that she did not enjoy doing. Finding a volunteer experience that fits her skill set was very important to her. For Emily, the organization holds a very personal significance. In 2009 Emily’s father was diagnosed with cancer. While undergoing surgeries and receiving many months of treatment, her parents were able to stay at an American Cancer Society facility called Hope Lodge at no cost. Giving her parents a place to call home while being surrounded by such an amazing support system of volunteers and others going through similar situations during this difficult time was invaluable and something that I will never forget.The day Emily heard back from American Cancer Society about the volunteer listing happened to be the same day that her father had a cancer-free CT scan result. It made the opportunity to give something back even more exciting for her. To be able to find a way to help others that went through similar experiences to her and her family made the experience something she would never forget.

The Aha! moment…

Emily learned that you can find a way to volunteer that fits your skill set and your passion. If you look hard enough, everyone can find a volunteer activity that they enjoy doing and are good at. She learned that almost every organization either needs or could use help in so many different areas. Even if you are not able to move or lift things, there’s always some way that you can help out. You just have to seek it out. Taking a small amount of time to do something you are skilled and trained at can save someone else hours of precious time that can be used towards helping other areas of the organization. Emily said it didn’t take her long at all to complete the project, especially compared to someone who hasn’t had a lot of practice in that area. She also learned that a lot less people volunteer than she thought. So many people have skills and passions that are vitally important to philanthropies and they never even try to seek out a philanthropy that they are interested in to see if they can help in any way. Every person has at least one philanthropy that has personally helped them, and if they gave a small amount of their time to the philanthropies so much more could get accomplished. She said that the most important thing she learned was that giving time can go a lot further than giving money to most charities and in most situations. Lots of people just donate and think that they have done their part, but if they just took a couple hours of their time each month to volunteer, it would go a lot farther than money would. She herself used to give money and felt like she was being helpful, but now she has a much greater appreciation for volunteering.

To summarize it in three words…

  • pain, support, help

Why should you do this

As for Jenna, she’s just happy to have made a difference. There are so many ways to volunteer. I didn’t realize I could use my design knowledge to help. I learned that there are so many people out there trying to make this world a better place, and I hope that more people lend a hand to them. They won’t regret it.

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