Celebrating National Volunteer Week

By Michael J. Kalvort, CPRE | Posted on April 23, 2024

Volunteer Week Blog Feature Image

It seems like each week, we celebrate something new. From the silly observances like “International Clotheslines Week” to the sublime, like my favorite, “Hug Your Cats Week,” it’s easy to pass on celebrations. But especially for our profession, National Volunteer Week shouldn’t be skipped. We couldn’t provide the many parks, programs, events and community-building opportunities we do without the tireless work of our volunteers. I’ve found that by volunteering for NRPA and other organizations, I’ve been able to meet so many amazing professionals, network with talented NRPA team members, and in my own little way, give back to the profession that was good to me for so many years.

Getting Started

I’ve been fortunate to have been a volunteer with NRPA for a lot of my career. I consistently get the question from fellow professionals, “How do I get started?” Hopefully by sharing some of my stories, you’ll understand just how easy it is and what you can do to make an impact. It started for me by simply asking if I could help set up and assist in the check-in process for Revenue Development and Management School at the Oglebay Resort and Conference Center. After a week of helping and getting to know the NRPA liaison and the regents, I got the sense that I was contributing to an NRPA program I loved. When I asked what else I could do to support NRPA, I was told to get involved in networks and at conferences. That was the hook, and it was easy enough that anyone can do it — including you!

I immediately started attending the Administrator Network — now the Leadership Development Network — meetings, and got to know the volunteer board who planned the network calls. I asked to help wherever I could. That was many years ago, and as a past network chair, I’m still involved.

Getting Involved

So, what can you do to get involved with NRPA?

  1. Post and respond to threads in NRPA Connect. You’ll be surprised just how many people you will get to know and who will know you by maintaining a presence on NRPA Connect.
  2. Attend monthly network calls and be present. By dedicating one hour each month, you’ll network with other professionals, learn current trends and give yourself a chance to hear other opinions about profession. Once you get comfortable, volunteer to help. Network boards can always use another hand.
  3. Volunteer for the NRPA Annual Conference. It covers some of the costs, plus you’ll get to see what makes NRPA so special from the inside.
  4. Get involved in the American Academy of Parks and Recreation Administrators (AAPRA) Mentorship Program. This program, co-sponsored by NRPA, pairs mentees and mentors. You’ll have an opportunity to impact another person — and fellow professional — and that’s what volunteering does. It creates impact.
  5. Become a CAPRA Volunteer. This will show you how high-performing agencies and departments operate and function.

Giving Back

Once you start, you might find that your sphere of influence will grow — outside of where you work — and that’s awesome. Even after serving as a director for many years, I’m still involved. Currently, I am a CAPRA Commissioner and an AAPRA board member. I’m also fortunate to be a mentor to an amazing young professional and serve on several committees, including one through which we are creating real change for diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession. I feel everyone should give back and in their own way, and this is what I’ve chosen.

So, if you’re wondering just how to start volunteering and you want to make an impact, simply ask how you can help, show up and be involved. I challenge you — don’t make an excuse, make a commitment and take the first step so next year when we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we will celebrate you!

Michael J. Kalvort, CPRE, is an American Academy of Parks and Recreation Administration Board Member, a CAPRA Commissioner, and a Leadership Development Network Board Member.