Making a difference

Erin Smith 08/27/08More articles
For Megan O’Donnell, volunteering is a fulfilling part of life.

With parents who were both honored as Baldwinsville’s Volunteer of the Year in the past, it is no wonder O’Donnell has inherited a generous spirit and a commitment to her community. In addition to working a full-time job and volunteering time elsewhere, the Baldwinsville native also serves as president of the board for the Baldwinsville Volunteer Center.

The Baldwinsville Messenger recently interviewed O’Donnell to learn more about her and her involvement with the BVC.

How did you become involved with the BVC?
When I moved back to Baldwinsville in 2002, my mother and Jan Greco asked me to be a part of the Taste of Baldwinsville committee, the Volunteer Center's major fund-raising event. When a position on the board became available in 2003, Jan encouraged me to take on the position.

How long have you served on the BVC Board?
I am beginning my sixth and final year on the board this year. Each director on the Board serves for two-year terms, with a maximum of three consecutive terms.

Describe your experience with the BVC.
I have served in many capacities on the Board of the BVC, including chairing (or co-chairing) the Taste of Baldwinsville event for four years, serving as the chair of publicity and of fund development, as well as vice president and currently president. I have met a lot of exceptional, dedicated people serving on the board and have had many experiences that have been extremely fun and fulfilling.

What does the BVC mean to the community?
The Baldwinsville Volunteer Center is the only independent volunteer center in Onondaga County and we are 100 percent community funded. Our programs are completely run by volunteers and are available to those in need within the Baldwinsville School District. We have a program for high school students and adults to mentor children in the schools who are in need of a little extra support. We provide rides to seniors who have no transportation to medical appointments. We provide support throughout the holidays including the Christmas Bureau and Thanksgiving dinner baskets. We strive to fill the gap if there are unmet needs in the community that can be fulfilled through the work of volunteers.

Your mother was honored a few years ago as the BVC's Woman Volunteer of the Year and your father was honored as the Man of the Year in 1973. How did their dedication to volunteering influence you?
Both of my parents have certainly influenced my interest in volunteering. They have always been involved in the Baldwinsville community through various volunteer and service organizations, so I have grown up with an appreciation for service to my community.

What other organizations do you belong to?
Right now I am volunteering on the Oktoberfest committee working to bring back that event to Baldwinsville. I also volunteer a couple of times over the summer at the Visitor's Center. As someone with a full-time job, I try not to spread myself too thin by getting involved in too many things. That way I can really do a good job with the select organizations I am involved with. Since this is my last year with the Volunteer Center, though, I'll have to start looking for my next adventure.

Have you ever lived anywhere out of state? What was that experience like and how did it help define you?
I am a native of Baldwinsville. I left after high school to go to college, came home for a few years, and then spent three years living in Albany and then lived in Chicago for four years. I loved living in Chicago. It has such great diversity in culture, entertainment, art, activities and food. While I loved living in Chicago, the distance from my family and friends was too much, so I decided to move back to the northeast. The job opportunity I ended up taking just happened to be with my parents' neighbor, right here in Baldwinsville. I've been back for six years now and while I enjoyed living the big city life, there is definitely something to be said for the small town life as well, especially if it’s the one you grew up in.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
I am most proud of the success and growth of the Taste of Baldwinsville event over the past six years. We have outgrown several different venues and are now raising the majority of the center's operating budget from that one event. The effort that the committee puts into the event every year, the generosity of community businesses and the excitement generated about the event each spring continues to surprise me. The money we raise allows us to pay our rent and the salary of our executive director - who provides support to all of the programs we run and keeps the center involved and up to speed on the volunteer needs and activities in the Baldwinsville community.

What does volunteering mean to you?
I guess I don't even think of it as being separate from anything else I do. For me, it's just something I do, part of who I am, as much as golfing or skiing or any other activity I enjoy. It's not something I go out of my way to accomplish. Volunteer opportunities just seem to come up and if it's something that seems interesting to me or something that I believe in, I do it. Every once in a while I have the opportunity to see or hear about the effect we have on someone and that really makes me feel good about what we are doing, but I don't look for things where I'll receive recognition for my efforts. That's not what it's about for me, I know that I'm making a difference whether I'm recognized for it or not.

What would you say to encourage others to volunteer?
I would say that it's not as hard or as time-consuming as you might think. Baldwinsville is full of opportunities to volunteer your time and talents. Many of the volunteer opportunities here in Baldwinsville can be done with as little as a couple of hours a month, or even one-time activities. Most of the organizations who need volunteers are happy to have even a minimal commitment from its volunteers. I think the key to it is to find something that interests you and seek out an opportunity to do it. Nancy Conley, the Baldwinsville Volunteer Center's executive director, is always willing to talk with people who are interested in volunteering but don't know where to go or what they want to do.

CATEGORY: General Society
EDITION: Baldwinsville Messenger

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