Volunteer work can be a source of pride

February 5, 2014 

Vernon Young volunteered for many years in our community. He selflessly took on promoting, improving and maintaining several area parks and trails. He didn’t look for accolades, but a Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District ceremony Monday night seemed fitting to the man who loved his community so much.

Young, known as “Volunteer Vern,” died Jan. 7 at age 78. But, as our story on page A1 details, his legacy will live on at Sehmel Homestead Park, the pavilion has been renamed in his honor.

Young’s wife, son and daughter and two of his grandchildren attended the special meeting Monday night. The PenMet Parks board unveiled a plaque, which contained a portrait and an inscribed tribute to “Volunteer Vern,” and it will hang prominently in the pavilion.

Young wanted to be remembered not for his name but through his volunteer work. Instead of simply retiring, he continued to serve his community. He dedicated his time and efforts to keep areas clean and thriving.

Look around at our area parks and trails. Along the roadside. Those were all of Young’s passions. He wanted to preserve our open spaces for future generations, and he wanted to keep them clean for the current generation to enjoy.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Young, it’s to dedicate some time outside of our daily lives to the greater good.

We’re proud to say we have a few examples within our own organization.

Hugh McMillan tops that list. All of the work he’s done for the Gateway in 30-plus years has been as a volunteer. He says he gets paid in smiles, and he loves it when kids know who he is.

McMillan is on so many boards throughout the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas that we’ve lost count. He is a member of the Key Peninsula Lions, Communities in Schools of Peninsula, the Harbor History Museum and the Cheney Family branch of the Boys & Girls Club, to name just a few. He often covers stories at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, including the Prison Pet Partnership Program, and he always provides photos from the Kiwanis Club’s annual Gear Up for School event.

Editor and Publisher Brian McLean has given his time for the past three years with the Gig Harbor Film Festival. He spent two years as the vice president of the board and only recently stepped aside due to time conflicts. While he was on the board, he offered his expertise and helped to promote the annual event.

Our photographer, Lee Giles III, has volunteered as a firefighter/paramedic in several communities that he has lived in. In fact, he’s put his camera down on more than one occasion while he’s been on assignment for the newspaper to help people in emergency situations.

We have volunteered because we have a passion for our community and those around us. Our interests can point us in any number of directions, from coaching youth sports, to becoming a reading mentor (McMillan does that, too). Clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis and Altrusa join people together for a common purpose, and so do organizations like the history museum, the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Gig Harbor Visitors Center.

Sure, we can all go about our daily grind and go home to rest. But those who give even a little bit of their time — once a month would do — tend to feel a greater sense of pride in their community.

Vernon Young was one of those people. He kept busy and gave back. He helped in areas that needed his time. He used his expertise to improve this community, and he did so because it felt right, not because of a paycheck.

The chance to work with and be around new friends who strive toward a common interest can also bring a community together.

Volunteer Vern helped others, and that also kept him going. Sometimes, being a volunteer is reward enough.

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