Sir Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” I believe in today’s culture and society this still holds true. So often, as individuals we are caught up with our own agendas and plans for what we expect this life to give us. We work hard to further our education, careers, and personal and spiritual growth. We provide unconditional support to our family, friends and loved ones. But what about providing the same supports for the benefit of our community, both immediate and professional?
My son, Dustin, diagnosed with Autism at the age of two and now a young adult, initially spurred my volunteer and advocacy efforts within our educational system and community. For the past 20 years, through my personal experiences as a mother, my career, and volunteer efforts, I have continued to develop and build new skills that have boosted my confidence and my personal, professional and social resources. All skill levels and experiences are needed to create a well-rounded volunteer community. I found this to be true very early on as I was learning about my son’s diagnosis and searching for supports in our community. When there were none to be found, I sought to remedy the problem and so began my first volunteer experience. Doubts crept in and I was unsure I had anything to offer other young mothers and families going through similar situations. I was so wrong! I found out that others were craving and needing exactly what I was searching for. As our small family support group grew, I saw other mothers grow in confidence and ability and, in turn, my confidence in my abilities as a mother, advocate and volunteer grew. Volunteering to support others helped me in ways I could never have imagined. Any skill that a person possesses can provide a great benefit and contribution to an organization or may provide a positive impact for even just a single individual in the community. Either way...well worth the efforts! I cannot tell you the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with knowing how playing such a positive role to the benefit of someone else feels!
As a new clinician, and knowing the benefits of volunteerism, I sought out volunteer opportunities that provided a positive impact to my profession. I myself had benefited from a grant/scholarship opportunity which enabled me to complete my graduate education. I can personally speak to how this supported me in reaching my educational goals. The educational grant I received was a tremendous blessing to me and my family and was essential in obtaining my degree. Now, as a volunteer on the CDF board, I am thrilled to see young clinicians receive the fruits of this board’s volunteer efforts. Through the Rita Purcell-Robertson and David H. Narburgh scholarships, future clinicians receive support to help their dreams come true. It is essential to support our future clinicians as they too will someday be in a role to support those newly entering the field as well as families and communities in need.
Compassion and empathy for others are important for success in any organization. I believe in what the Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia stands for, and I love being a part of paying it forward. While facilitating a stronger sense of community, volunteering with the CDF has enabled me to expand my personal and professional network, gain confidence, learn new skills, take on new challenges, and have fun! Volunteering should begin where you feel the most passion. My story as a volunteer and advocate began with my son and has led me to where I am today. Let your love for the profession create a positive change in your community. I encourage you to look beyond yourselves and consider the role you can play in serving others. By giving back, you can reap countless rewards.
Elizabeth Edens M.S., CCC-SLP
CDF of VA, Board Trustee
Arc- South of the James, President
VCU Center for Family Involvement, Family Navigator
Each one should use whatever gift he/she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10