There are so many worthwhile nonprofit organizations to choose from, so where should one begin?
I am often asked these very questions and sometimes wonder if being a cockeyed optimist leads to my personal decision to get involved.
Back in 2004, when I created a cable television show to spotlight shelter animals, I was met with many naysayers. Some of the comments were downright hurtful. Yet I believed that bringing awareness to our animal shelter and the animals housed there must lead to a positive outcome — more adoptions, or maybe a new shelter.
I met others with the same passion and united with them to start helping our community. One group rolled into another, and before I knew it, I was helping other local nonprofit organizations.
Interestingly enough, I often saw the same faces at multiple events and realized that our community has a core group of volunteers who truly make a difference.
Brian Pekari is one of those people.
“Individually we can make a difference, and collectively we can create change,” said Pekari, a Tracy resident. “Growing up in a large family, we were always encouraged to help and give back. I think my motto is, Be the difference now.”
Pekari founded Tracy United to Make a Difference and last fall organized our community’s first Make A Difference Day. Tracy Press readers may also recall a 2012 story about when he camped out for three nights in front of Freebirds World Burrito, winning a year’s worth of free burritos that he donated to the McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter.
Tracy resident Rhonda Kooy is another example of the passion that drives a volunteer to give back.
Kooy is a board member of Brighter Christmas and Noah’s Ark Foundation of Tracy. In addition, she is part of a nationwide animal transfer team called Kindred Hearts Transport Connections.
The day I caught up with her, she had rescued five dogs that were scheduled to be euthanized at a nearby animal shelter.
“Volunteering is a calling of the heart, and you have to answer that call,” Kooy said. “You don’t do it to receive — the joy is in giving. When I talk to people we have helped, there is so much appreciation, and when it comes to the animals — there is lots of licks and kisses.”
So where does one begin? Ask yourself where your personal passion lies. Don’t pick a charity at random.
Think of it as a puzzle, and you are the final piece that completes it. Where would you fit best? Start with one and build your volunteer masterpiece.
Along your journey you will be able to help a needed nonprofit, make lifelong friends and leave your footprints in the community.
- Anne Marie Fuller is a Tracy arts commissioner and the television host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie” on Channel 26 at 7 p.m. Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.