Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We, the people in Illinois, must be leaders.

Engaging Seniors in Volunteerism and Community Problem Solving

I attended an event at the State Capital in Springfield, Illinois on Monday, focused on Civic Engagement of Older Adults. This was sponsored by the Illinois Policy Academy of the National Governor's Association.

I created the graphic a year ago following the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. I've written several articles about how to engage volunteers more strategically in long-term service and complex problem solving.

Thus, I was excited to participate in this event. One of the main organizers, was Jane Angelis, who I've known since 1994. She attended the first Tutor/Mentor Conference, and was one of the people who encouraged the publication of our tutor/mentor directory, which is now the on-line Program Locator. Jane has led the Intergenerational Initiative for as long as I've led the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It was in spring 1995, at a meeting she hosted, that the August/September Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign idea was given birth.

There were many good speakers, and great ideas shared at this event. I plan to add links to some on the Tutor/Mentor Connection library.

One speaker was John Sirek, director, Citizenship, McCormick Foundation. John's speech resonated with me in many ways. He led off with "We, the people in Illinois, must be leaders. We must be active and engaged." Here are some quotes I wrote down as he spoke

* be a good person; a contributor, and a good example

* I'm a product of the people who came before me. It is my duty to give back, pass it forward

* Begin every day by reminding ourselves of ways people can help build orderly neighborhoods

* Community building. That's what we're talking about

* Build upon previous learning

John concluded by saying "Why do I care so much about good citizens?" He answered by saying "We face many challenges. Who will take them on and say 'I will do everything in my power'? We cannot afford to leave a talented segment of society on the sidelines."

If you read some of the articles I've written for the past few years, such as this one, you'll see that John and I are on the same page.

There were others with great ideas to share.

For instance, Bob Gallow, state director for AARP, introduced Create the Good, which seeks to point AARP members to volunteer and service opportunities.

Scot Nierman and others from the Serve Illinois Commission, were their to share information about the State's Volunteer Inquiry portal.

Others shared information about the Illinois Worknet portal, which offers information for business and workers in the state.

One of the most unique programs was the Retirees Leading Initiative of Spoon River College. I liked this because it shows the university taking an active role in helping retirees learn leadership roles they could take in the community. I'd like to have this type of support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Monday's meeting was part of a process, intended to develop public policy that engages the time and talent of older Americans in volunteer and community service, and/or in second careers. I hope that as such groups move forward, they will use the ideas of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

We need adults of all ages, backgrounds, races, economic sectors working, and sacrificing, if we're to create a future that has more hope and opportunity for all Americans than the present offers.

I hope some of these groups will join with the Tutor/Mentor Connection in on-line forums, and at the May 28 and 29 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

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