Giving back to community creates rewarding experience

How do you give back to your community?

This past Saturday, I joined hundreds of people helping to clean up and beautify Ypsilanti. The annual event, called Ypsilanti PRIDE (People Restoring Image & Developing Environment in Ypsilanti), was coordinated by the Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation. Saturday was about residents taking pride in their community by volunteering to make it better.

It was a rewarding experience. I worked with a group of Girl Scouts planting flowers and cleaning up Riverside Park. Other volunteers worked at sites in Depot Town, downtown and other local park areas.

Since I live nearby, I frequent Riverside Park almost every day. I enjoy the backdrop of green space and the Huron River while I race to finish off an ice cream cone before it becomes soup in my hand.

The mix of volunteers ranged from neighborhood residents to area business employees to students. Cheers to the players from the EMU men’s and women’s basketball teams and from the football team, who pitched in.

I joined the effort because I felt a need to give back to the community, but it got me thinking about those who take and do not give back.

In one of many hilarious Simpson’s episodes, Betty White was participating in a PBS fund drive when she encountered Homer. He was trying to shirk his pledge, and she told him people who do not contribute are just stealing.

Should those of us who enjoy the “free” things in life give back in some capacity, such as volunteering?

We usually think of a volunteer as a person who offers time or service to someone or to a cause and does not expect something in return. Those who do volunteer – and there are many, around 62 million a year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – know we do get something in return.

It was gratifying to partake in a community event and mingle with neighbors and meet new people. I even met someone who lives on the floor below me in our building.

I left Riverside Park feeling good about what we accomplished. That is the reward we get in return.

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