Lending a hand

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For some, volunteer work can be akin to pulling teeth, needing to schedule it well in advance and dread it every day until it comes.

Then there are those who view it as a calling that’s true to their hearts.

They are all among us; our co-workers, parents waiting in the same line to pick up their kids and the ones you run into at the supermarket.

Chances are they’re the ones giving you a smile before asking how your family’s doing.

All they want to do is bring the community together and watch it grow as a result.

Volunteer organizations around the county work around the clock to sponsor and create events for citizens around the surrounding areas to come out and enjoy together, all at no cost.

A couple of those events are Sealybration and Fantasy of Lights, put on by the Sealy Community Foundation and the president, Melanie Willingham, spoke to the character of the other humans who make up the Foundation.

“The Sealy Community Foundation is a happy group of volunteers who love our community and just want to give back, not check a box,” said Willingham. “Volunteering is in all of our hearts.”

Another group with a like-minded approach has been around town for 50 years and although their logo is the menacing king of the jungle, none of the members will chase you down licking their chops.

The Sealy Lions Club is just one small cog in the overall machine that spans oceans, boasting “the world’s largest and most active service club organization; a group of over 1.4 million men and women in over 48,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas around the globe, who are dedicated to making a difference,” says a statement from Lions Club International.

However, they also understand it’s not just a few individuals that get the job done but a collective group altogether.

“Lions know that it takes a T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) that works in harmony to positively impact individuals and families in the local community,” said an excerpt from the Sealy chapter in their 50-year commemorative tab. “Sealy is a community comprised of caring individuals, churches, civic organizations, and government entities that are ready and available to serve others.”

That has been proven over and over again with revenue increases after each Sealybration event the Sealy Community Foundation put together. Willingham added that one of their targets each time out was to create a positive economic impact each year they go back.

“Our goal is to always get more than we did before,” Willingham said. “And to make a positive economic impact not just volunteer for a fun weekend. Our revenue has grown each year and last year we hit a mark of $1.8 million. The first year we made $1 million, then $1.2 then $1.5 and then finished with $1.8 last year but we couldn’t do any of that without volunteers who help pull it off.”

She added that with the more people that saw the positive trend they were on, more and more volunteers wanted to get involved which allowed more and more guests to come every time, achieving some of the top objectives they set out for.

Of course, she can’t take all the credit for the entirety of the success, as other volunteer organizations in the area have been able to offer their services in exchange for more assistance down the road, the never-ending cycle of volunteering time and effort with one another for the betterment of each party.

One of those organizations, of course, is the Lions Club which has earned a pretty sweet gig due to their perennial commitment.

"The Lions Club runs the gate at Sealybration and they’re great,” Willingham said. “I don’t even have to ask if they’re going to be there, they show up and do their job because they know how much good the money will help out their own organization.”

On top of that, she mentioned places like Sealy Eastside Foundation, the Sealy Chamber of Commerce, YMCA (when it was still here) and the Tiger Stage Company among others who have lent a helping hand.

She appreciated all they did over the years in plenty of different capacities and one long-time member of the Sealy chapter of the Lions Club noted it is an honor to be called upon.

“Volunteerism is an expression of love,” Robert Fait said. “As we ‘love one another,’ we have opportunities to help others by using the gifts that have been entrusted to us by God. Service to others brings joy beyond measure. We are blessed to be a blessing!”

Another volunteer who shared that mindset has the title of president for the Sealy Rotary Club and her story is one of being welcomed with open arms.

“Being new to Sealy, I thought volunteering was the best way to meet new people and get involved,” said Cortni Breman. “Living in Houston, you never really got that ‘small-town feel’ but that’s what Sealy is all about! Rotary gave me a way to give back to my town, people I know and friends. I also enjoy helping with the many local events Sealy has each year and my children’s schools. It keeps me busy and it is very rewarding at the end of the day to know you helped others out.”

That sort of feeling can certainly be infectious, and it has already been translated down to the younger generations who have grown to appreciate and understand what it means to offer your help to someone else.

“I asked a lot of the high schoolers we talked to, ‘What does growing up in Sealy mean to you?’” Willingham queried. “And nearly all of them included either Sealybration or Fantasy of Lights in their answer. The success of our community is built on volunteers.”

If there was a chance she should put a dollar amount on that maximum amount of work possible, whatever it may be, Willingham took a moment to ponder the inquiry.

“Volunteer work is immeasurable,” she said with conviction. “You can’t put a dollar or time amount on the work. We couldn’t get anything done without volunteers.”

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