Getting involved

Published 9:44 pm Monday, August 27, 2012

In the same breath he said residents should attend City Council meetings, Washington City Council member William Pitt said the meetings would be boring.
“The public doesn’t come to our meetings. … It’s not interesting to them, but it’s not supposed to be interesting. It’s supposed to be dry, it’s supposed to be informative. Every citizen should have an involvement in it, but they won’t come to us,” Pitt said in an interview last week.
Not a glowing recommendation, but an honest one.
In these times of 140-character Twitter blurbs, 30-second YouTube videos and Facebook newsfeeds, attention is a hard-earned commodity. Teachers know it. Ministers know it. And politicians like Pitt know it.
So is it our responsibility to grin and bear our civic duty or their responsibility to find some way to make the “dry” and “informative” tangible?
Let’s change gears.
One Swan Quarter nonprofit has learned the key to gaining volunteers is making their experiences memorable ones.
Since Hurricane Irene, Swan Quarter’s United Methodist Church disaster center has had a steady flow of volunteer teams at its disposal.
Volunteers aren’t whistling while they work, and the center has made no promises of beer pong, but the word has gotten out that volunteering at Swan Quarter will be a satisfying experience.
What’s the center’s secret? Like the center in Aurora, projects are run like well-oiled machines. By the end of any visit, the volunteers know their time will not have been wasted.
But there’s one tradition that sets Swan Quarter apart. Each and every week includes a dinner where volunteers and clients (past and present) come together and share their experiences. Locals take turns preparing the meals.
It’s a simple tradition, but it makes all the difference. People leave knowing whom they helped and the impact their time and efforts have made.
Beaufort County has had similar dinners, but without the commitment from locals to prepare the dinners, the events are far from a weekly tradition.
But what’s a council member to do? Turn the next council meeting into a potluck dinner? Handle council business between sets at the next Music in the Streets or during the next halftime at a Pam Pack home game?
The solution may be in this week’s Republican National Convention. Give us some stirring political speeches and more citizen (“delegate”) involvement and let’s see where we go from there.
To volunteer with the North Carolina Conference United Methodist Church Disaster Recovery Team, contact Ann Huffman at or call 888-440-9167.