I have a love hate with volunteering. I really do. I love to be involved and dig in to committee work, but I get mad at myself when I don’t say no. Ugh! What is wrong with me? I need to say no more often. And so, here we are in another year and I find myself full swing on the volunteer train again. Love it, hate it.

I think for me it is working a long day, coming home and making dinner, sitting down for the first time to mindless TV, then realizing, “Oh gosh I have a meeting.”  It is cold and dark outside and you trek out for an hour or more of a meeting. Dred. Sounds super negative, I know. Then why do it? It is instilled in me. To give back and to be involved. It is the love of community. I just need to find a better balance and it is totally my fault.

 My theme for this year is to slow down and relax a bit. How is it working out so far? Not good. I can’t. I promised myself I would slow down with the volunteer effort but finding myself committing to more things. Why in the heck do I do this to myself?

I have a few rules about volunteering. I do think my time is valuable, I have boundaries. I work full time, I am busy raising family and need to put my health and my faith life first before everything else. And, keep up with my kids activities. I won’t miss a concert, track meet or school event. My kid’s events trump all other volunteer efforts.

I have trouble saying no. I am bad at that. My husband says so too. I allow myself to get involved with three things a year (or try to stick to that rule). As long as the commitments can be done over a lunch hour meeting and not too many night meetings. Night meetings are a killer for me. I think I mentioned that. The three requirements for volunteering for an event or organization are: 1) am I passionate about it? 2) Is it a cause I believe in? 3) Can I network and develop my professional career?

For the record—I am passionate and believe in all of it, I just have to categorize in my own brain the three things that mean the most to me. Word spreads when you volunteer and you volunteer well. I mean, when you show up to a meeting and take a task and follow through, word spreads that you are organized, reliable. Darn it! Why do I have to be that way? I am getting more calls.

Maybe if I showed up for committee work and didn’t say a thing or didn’t volunteer for a task—or even better, joined an organization and never showed up at all. Yes, that is it! That is what I will do. Not. That is not ingrained in my soul to do that. I am joiner, doer as they say.

I have bitten off more than I can chew sometimes, had to retract and take a step back…bow out. That is not easy for me. In fact, it is really, really hard to say, “ I can’t do this—this is too much.”

Back to my three causes. The first one, being passionate is a cause that is near and dear to my heart is our LOSS Team in Kearney. Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. I am committed and I am passionate. Not just because I lost my brother to suicide—but I feel passionate about helping people that have gone through the loss of a loved one to suicide. I have put my grief in to action.

Recently, I was asked to be on the Habitat for Humanity board. I was flattered to be asked but to be honest, I don’t know much about the organization. I have volunteered a few times to serve lunches and deliver devotions during Habitat build day, but a hammer and nails and me? Well, let’s just hope some of my talents and resources don’t involve tools. Not good. I am excited to dig in and learn more about Habitat.

The third is networking/community. I am a big believer in Chamber of Commerce and networking and community and love our Envoy group. It is like a Chamber ambassador group. I have found great friendships and have fun at every event I attend. From business after hours to ribbon cuttings, the business community in Kearney is awesome and I am glad to be part of it.

My goal for volunteering this year is commitment and keeping up with all the demands. One thing I always try to do is be a good volunteer. Once I commit—I commit. Which means to me showing up to meetings, not just filling a seat but being present and take on a task or two.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with it all and wonder why in the heck I put myself in a situation of doing too much. In one week, I was asked to volunteer and help with six different events. Really? Can’t you find someone else? Thank you –but gosh, you are the 100th person to ask me to do something this week. No. I was overwhelmed. Grateful that they trusted in my abilities to carry out a task but my brain kept asking, “Can someone else do this?”

I am whining, but I am also thankful. Thankful to live in a community with so many volunteer options. I feel guilty that I can’t do it all. I often say that if I won the lottery (yeah, right!), I would be the best darn volunteer ever.

I guess the message is, overall, it is so important to volunteer in the communities we live, but find the balance. Once you join a group or organization you are passionate about, you will be inspired. Get involved and be present. Let your light shine bright.

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Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl. I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17. As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead. We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other, support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities. We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?

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