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Volunteerism instills passion in daily life

By James A. Crumlin Jr.
The volunteering in America report recently released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which showed an increase in the number of Nashville volunteers, also reported important data on the volunteer life cycle, defined as the arc of civic involvement that tends to increase as citizens feel a deeper connection to their communities.

As board chairman of the Young Leaders Council, I am particularly intrigued by the research showing that the national volunteer rate tends to increase with age until mid-life. I have seen this trend firsthand in the young professionals establishing themselves in their careers who have expressed a desire to take their volunteerism to the next level by applying to the Young Leaders Council board training program.

Founded in 1985, YLC was developed to address the need to broaden and strengthen Nashville’s volunteer leadership base by training men and women ages 25-40 to effectively serve on the board of directors of nonprofit organizations in Middle Tennessee. To date, more than 1,800 graduates have served on the boards of 150 local nonprofit agencies.

I have found what Laurel Creech, chief service officer for the Mayor’s office and a graduate of YLC Class 38, said to be true: “There is growing national and local interest in weaving service into our daily lives and selecting passions that are important to us that we can dig into and make a difference. With the growing needs of low-capacity nonprofits and the budgetary constraints of local government, the opportunities to engage are vast.”

Since first participating in the program in 2003 as a member of Class 41, I have been inspired to serve on more than 15 boards, including serving as immediate past president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee and as the current board chair of Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center Inc.

In addition to my involvement in the community, my board training has given me the tools needed to benefit my professional career. I have had the honor of participating in a number of leadership roles within my industry, the most exciting of which was when former Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed me to serve as a commissioner on the Tennessee Civil Service Commission through 2014.

Even in these challenging economic times, corporations realize the value of nonprofit leadership training because young leaders bring back to the workplace those skills they have learned through their volunteer experiences. Serving on the boards of area nonprofits introduces young leaders to a network of valuable contacts, in addition to providing an invaluable service to the community.

Today, more than ever, nonprofits benefit from the skills and passion that young leaders provide. I applaud all volunteers for their giving spirit during times of great need, and especially their continued desire to volunteer after things have improved.

James A. Crumlin Jr. is a member of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC law firm and was named the 2010 Young Leader of the Year by the Young Leaders Council.
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