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Why I Volunteer
Joni Daniels

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer###s Disease at the age of 60. The last 8 years of her life was a roller coaster ride; tragic events, comical stories, conflicting feelings and a constant undercurrent of panic and dread. After she died, it took me several months to feel like I was a fully functioning person again.

An idea was percolating in my imagination. After several months I contacted the Alzheimer###s Association and told them that I wanted to volunteer. As an author of a wide variety of articles on topics that deal with interpersonal effectiveness, I could write about issues that caregivers could relate to: difficult discussions; asking for help; and dealing with stress. As a corporate trainer, I could provide staff and volunteers with training on how to make a polished presentation. As a professional speaker, I could promote the Alzheimer###s Association and the essential resources that they provide to the community: the Safe Return Program, medical and legal resources in the community, caregiver support groups, and recent updates on medical research. Most importantly, I could provide real-world encouragement.

I know what a family member experiences as they watch someone they love deteriorate. I am all too aware of the isolation and sadness that hold hands with this disease. And I understand how important it is to be able to have access to help, information and the support so necessary in making critical decisions.

I volunteer because the people who were there for me when I was going through the process of loss made such a difference. I volunteer because there were things that I wish I had known; it might have made the process a little easier to bear. I volunteer because there are things I wish someone had said to me; and I had to learn many things the hard way.

At first I thought it might be too hard. I didn###t talk much about what I was going through while I was going through it. I was afraid that I would fall apart. I didn###t want people to say things that would be hurtful rather than helpful. But my desire to give back and get involved was stronger than my concerns.

What I discovered was that speaking to caregiver groups, nursing home staff, and the general population in our community is pure pleasure. The "Me too!" response I see and hear when I make a presentation is incredibly gratifying and energizing. I know that by working with the Speakers Bureau to get the word out to the community, people are able to connect with information, resources, and support. The Association is able to better fulfill its mission. And every time I share a story about my mother, she is a little more alive within me. Everyone wins.

Daniels & Associates is a consulting group specializing in personal and professional development. A nationally recognized trainer, speaker, author, and entrepreneur, Ms. Daniels has helped professionals at all levels to develop effective interpersonal skills. For more information, please visit www.jonidaniels.com or http://www.powertoolsforwomen.com/.