The Honor - and Challenge - of Celebrating Our Volunteers

The Honor - and Challenge - of Celebrating Our Volunteers

As our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner festivities drew to a close on the evening of March 1, I watched as the few remaining party stalwarts closed down the dance floor to the beats of Latin Salsa and ‘70s disco. I was thrilled that the evening had gone so well. 

We had enjoyed an afternoon of nearly perfect Boca weather, with The Addison’s masterpiece of 1920s architecture creating an elegant and stylish atmosphere for such a celebratory evening. Thanks to the generosity of our partners at The Addison, we were able to have an amazing event at this beautiful historic site. Throughout the evening, I heard unsolicited positive reviews from our volunteers about the venue and exquisite service. But like with every other event that we put on, we don’t celebrate until it’s over. 

In my brief time at Boca Helping Hands (BHH), I have learned that our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner is one of the more complex events to organize. As with all events, there is catering, décor, day-of coordinating, and more — but our specific challenge is the result of a simple logistical conundrum: we have more deserving volunteers than we can afford to accommodate at any single event. We also agonize over the selection of volunteers to receive awards. Choosing the MVPs from a group of superstars is never easy.

As this year’s award ceremony progressed, I heard a recurring sentiment from the volunteers who had received an award. Each awardee was almost reluctant to be recognized. They kept reiterating that they didn’t deserve to be picked and that they would prefer to be able to share this award with their fellow volunteers. Being recognized for individual contributions may be at odds with the selfless team spirit that seems to be the primary motivation of BHH’s volunteers.

Some of the most touching moments I’ve experienced over the past year have been while attending memorial services for members of the BHH volunteer family. Listening to families celebrate the work that their beloved departed did for BHH, often as an integral part of their legacy, is always a profound experience. I was reminded of this during our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner as a video tribute honored four members of the BHH family who had been lost to us the previous year. It was during that tribute that we heard the most heartfelt applause from everyone in attendance.

I am learning that volunteerism at BHH is an exercise in idealism; putting the needs of others above ourselves is an expression of what we most highly aspire to be as human beings. It is a form of communal activism in which the opportunity to share the experience with a like-minded group is of much greater value than any individual accolade. Perhaps the personal satisfaction that our over 300 volunteers experience through their dedicated service may be a better reward than any honor we can confer in an award ceremony. 

In another year, we will have another Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. And we will once more find ourselves hoping to find the perfect way to express a simple but painfully honest sentiment: Thank you, you mean more to us than we could ever say.