Volunteering Cultivates Community and Belonging

By Edward Matthews, MLS, CPRP, AFO | Posted on April 26, 2024

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Volunteering is a cornerstone of promoting societal well-being, fostering connections, building communities and enriching lives. NRPA stands as a beacon, advocating for the significance of volunteering and offering avenues for individuals to improve their communities. For the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to serve in varying volunteer capacities. I have served on the Conservation Task Force, Conference Program Committee, and most recently, as a CAPRA volunteer. I find immense value, importance and sheer joy in volunteering with NRPA, as it offers me endless opportunities for selflessness.

Growing Through Service

Volunteering for NRPA is a powerful way to demonstrate civic responsibility and community engagement. Parks and recreational spaces are more than just physical locations; they are vital hubs where people unite, fostering social cohesion and healthy lifestyles. By volunteering, I am shaping these spaces and ensuring they remain vibrant and accessible to all. Whether I’m organizing events, maintaining green spaces or leading educational programs, my role as a volunteer with NRPA is indispensable in enhancing quality of life.

Furthermore, volunteering for NRPA is not just about giving back; it’s also about personal growth and fulfillment. It’s a chance to engage in meaningful activities that contribute to the common good, instilling a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It’s an opportunity to develop new skills, network with exceptional like-minded professionals, and gain valuable experience in areas like event management, environmental conservation, public speaking and leadership. The sense of camaraderie and shared passion among volunteers creates a supportive environment that fosters personal and professional development.

Creating Community

Volunteering for NRPA is inherently fun and rewarding. It offers a chance to connect and share a passion for innovation and the advancement of parks and recreation. Whether developing preservation and restoration policies, planning annual conferences, or leading agencies to improve performance via CAPRA, volunteering provides opportunities for memorable experiences and lasting friendships. The joy of seeing the positive impact of collective efforts firsthand further reinforces the intrinsic rewards of volunteering.

Working in a coastal community and volunteering with NRPA helps me contribute to our community’s sustainability and resilience. I have learned so much by actively engaging in NRPA’s vast efforts in these areas and promoting eco-friendly practices. While my initial background was in sports and recreation, volunteering inspired me to adopt environmentally conscious behaviors that have created a personal ripple effect and led to promotional opportunities in the field.

Volunteering for NRPA is not just about giving back to the community; it’s about embracing a lifestyle enriched by camaraderie, personal growth and shared experiences. It’s about recognizing the inherent value parks and recreation provides as essential to vibrant, healthy communities. So, let’s join hands, roll up our sleeves, and embark on a journey filled with purpose, passion and the sheer joy of making a difference. We can create a brighter, more inclusive future for generations to come.

Edward Matthews, MLS, CPRP, AFO, is Assistant Director of Norfolk (Virginia) Parks and Recreation.