Posted on 7/13/2017
Column originally featured in ThisWeek Community News on June 13, 2017
Gahanna Spotlight: Volunteers Have Big Roles in Strong Communities
By Tom Kneeland
Mayor of City of Gahanna
Gahanna is home to many wonderful service organizations that have been instrumental in upholding our most valued community traditions.
As I reflect on their many contributions, I am grateful for their time and commitment to making our community better. As someone who is actively involved in service organizations, I understand firsthand the challenges many of them face when it comes to attracting and retaining volunteers.
Growing up, I was influenced to serve by various people and groups to give back, in some fashion, to my community. I can vividly remember the Gahanna Lions Club selling barbecue chicken dinners at different events, raising money to pay for our fireworks. I also remember its members volunteering to mentor youth in our community.
Influenced by the Gahanna Lions Club and other community organizations, I was initially inspired to join the Mifflin Township Volunteer Fire Department under the leadership of Chief Jack Slevey. This experience greatly shaped my passion and purpose to serve my community and now, 40 years later, as I look back at the volunteer opportunities afforded to me, I feel a real sense of accomplishment.
In the last 20 years, many of our service organizations have witnessed a significant drop in their membership.
Tom Kneeland Since taking office in 2016, one of my commitments has been to re-engage and re-energize our service organizations.
Each month, I meet with leaders from these organizations to find out how we, as a city can help them continue to grow and thrive.
One of the challenges I constantly hear about is the lack of new members for these organizations.
Perhaps this decline can be attributed to the emergence of new online communities, possibly a different view and philosophy among the younger generations regarding civic groups, and their view of these organizations that were structured many years ago.
Whatever the case may be, I want to encourage Gahanna residents to get engaged and re-invest in our community.
There are many benefits to volunteering, including the ability to solve problems, improve the lives of others and the chance to strengthen our community.
Boxing great Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
I would like to encourage you to get involved in our community. Whether it’s one or two hours a month, your community needs you!
There are many opportunities for parents and our youth to volunteer or participate in projects and activities like helping the Gahanna Lions Club build a float for our annual Independence Day parade, volunteering in the food pantry for Gahanna Residents in Need or participating in a community cleanup through Make Gahanna Yours to preserve the beauty of our city.
To discover your passion or to get involved in your community, I encourage you to visit OneGahanna.com — a new website created to provide an easy to access directory of civic and service organizations. The site features volunteer opportunities available throughout our community.
Together, we can preserve the legacy of our service organizations and inspire our youth to give their time for generations to come.