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Diana: Why I volunteer

Written by Diana Gleisberg    on March 25, 2019    in
Diana Gleisberg is a passionate volunteer, world traveler, concert enthusiast and massive Nebraska fan. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram, @volunteeromaha. In honor of April's upcoming (do)GOOD month, we asked Diana to share why she volunteers. Pledge to join the (do)GOOD movement in April, and apply to volunteer now. 

I’m often asked why I volunteer, why I am passionate about this movement, or why I want to spread the spirit of volunteering.  Everyone’s “why” is different, but mine starts with my upbringing.  I’m blessed to have wonderful parents that instilled important values in my siblings and I.  They repeatedly showed us how fortunate we were, and the earliest philanthropic moment I recall was as a second grader.   Growing up in suburbia, I had never seen homeless people before.  My child innocence was shocked that people really lived outside and didn’t have beds to sleep in.  As a result, I was a 7 years- old and donating blankets to the Open Door Mission that my sister and I purchased with our allowance. At such a tender age, I became very aware of how grateful I was to have my own bed, even if that meant sharing a bedroom.    
 
Additionally, I grew up as a daughter, granddaughter, and niece of military service members.  This taught me patriotism, service, and believing in causes larger than myself.   You can’t help but feel the need to serve when brave men and women willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice in defending your freedom.  This was most impactful when my dad received military orders, moving our family to the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago 900 miles of the west coast of Portugal.  At 9 years old, the life lessons began to mount as I was exposed to an orphanage located close to our home.  Not only did kids my own age have no parents; they had no books, no games for recess, and no toys.  This was another shock to my world view that  it isn’t rainbows and sunshine for everyone.  Our Girl Scout Troop would throw parties with the children in the orphanage so that they could celebrate things like Christmas.  Also, the communities neighboring the Air Force Base were all impoverished. The residents were struggling to find work, their trash hardly filled a shopping bag, and they were scraping to provide for their families.  Yet, they were the most giving people I’ve ever come across, demonstrating the power of an abundant mindset.  We would attend town festivals and they would open their homes and businesses to my family (as well as all the other visitors), giving us all  our own loaf of homemade bread. 
 
I also attribute my spiritual upbringing to shaping my core beliefs.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Why?  A community is created, and you realize the benefit of leaning on one another when times are tough.  Your neighbor just isn’t someone you share a fence with, but a member of the community that you share together.  I succeed when we all succeed.  If my neighbor wins, my community wins.  With the churches and civic organizations that I’ve been a member of over the years, we’ve come together to support numerous causes: donating to the Food Bank, winter coat drives, and delivering meals to the hungry, to name a few.
 
But perhaps the most impactful example of my longing to give back is an event that hit our family directly.  I was 15 when my 9 year-old brother was severely burned and hospitalized 11 days for treatment, surgeries, and recovery.  Our family received an outpouring of support. Family, friends, and acquaintances brought over meals, prayer chains were enacted, and supplies were purchased.  This demonstrated to me that I will always have support; and that support comes from not only family and friends, but also church members, neighbors, and random strangers.  My brother was fortunate that there were no long term effects and that he’s gone on to live a normal and happy life.  Enduring this trying period as a family, and being grateful for the support that my brother received reaffirmed my belief in sharing it forward with others.  
 
Because of this, sick and injured children tug at my heartstrings and encourage me to rally around those who are suffering.  Touring the Ronald McDonald House and serving dinner to the families puts your life into perspective.  Not only is their child suffering, but the family's life is uprooted whilst they seek medical treatment in a foreign town.  Being able to provide a smidge of support makes me feel, in a small manner, like I am able to make a difference to families in need, and repay the debt my family incurred decades ago. 
 
Why do you volunteer?  Is there a cause that affects your family?  Does this tie in your core values?  Do you wish to impart a teaching moment to your children?  My why will be different from your why, but when we #shareitforward and #dogood we all win. The Omaha metro wins.