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There's More than One Way to Give

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Kalamazoo Community Foundation

We are happy to share this blog by Katie Paauwe, receptionist and office assistant at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. This entry was originally published on the foundation's blog.

Here's the scoop. I'm in my mid-twenties, new homeowner, entry-level job, and a lover of all things Kalamazoo. This community has so many awesome programs and activities, and I want to be a part of it all. I'm constantly seeing organizations I want to support with donations. BIG donations. Like tens of dollars--because that's what I have to offer right now. I'm still in that young professional struggle of making sure my bank account doesn't dip into the red. But I am lucky. I can give something just as valuable as money. I can give my time.

Sometimes it's hard to figure out where the best place would be to volunteer. We have so many great organizations and events in Kalamazoo County. Sometimes I feel like I just want to sign up for them all! But figuring out where to volunteer has been a simple journey for me.

I lost my father at a very young age, and now that I am a little bit older I wanted to find a program that would let me help kids struggling with the same issues I faced. This led me to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and their Journeys program. The program is entirely free for families and is led by trained grief counselors and volunteers. And it is simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. You can see how much two hours of your time means to these kids. You leave with a smile in your heart knowing you are part of something so much bigger than yourself. Everyone grieves in their own way, but being able to accompany someone on their "path to healing" is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever felt. And the most amazing part? I just started volunteering with them this year and I already feel like I have made a difference!

I am also involved in planning and executing Kalamazoo County's Relay For Life (a 24-hour American Cancer Society fundraiser). I relay for my Aunt Pat, a woman who valiantly fought back against cancer three times. A woman who taught me what it meant to be strong. A woman who never complained about her ailments and always, ALWAYS was adamant that through the fundraising efforts of Relay For Life and the work of the American Cancer Society we would find a cure. I miss her every day. Cancer has touched everyone's life, whether it's a relative, friend, neighbor...we all know someone whose life has been changed because of it. We also plan a Bark For Life each fall. This is a "mini" Relay For Life that you can bring your canine companions to. Who doesn't love to volunteer and hang out with a bunch of dogs?!

It's an amazing feeling to help rally your community for a cause that is so important to you.

Volunteering is a unique experience. You get to choose how big or small your impact is. You get to choose where to do your service and you get to choose how often you participate. You really get to set your own parameters. Everyone can donate their time; no matter their occupation, education or financial status. Everyone can help. Everyone can give.

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