During the past year, our more than 1,000 volunteers logged approximately 30,000 hours of service for the Osceola Council on Aging. That equates to more than 82 hours of volunteer service donated daily, an impressive accolade for both the OCOA and the volunteers themselves.

Recently, at our ‘Havana Nights’ fundraising event, Joyce and Bo Lemmond (ages 89 and 92 respectively), were awarded Volunteers of the Year for their 31 years of dedication and service. Over three decades, the Lemmond have delivered a whopping 75,000 Meals on Wheels to Osceola residents.

Another volunteer, Marilyn King, 87, who was awarded this same honor last year, has volunteered for the OCOA for more than 14 years. To this day, Marilyn awakes every morning, Monday through Friday at 3:30 a.m. for her kitchen shift which begins at 4:30 and works to pack Meals on Wheels coolers for meal deliveries.

With those examples mentioned, I want to explicitly say, the Council could not sustain the expansive outreach to support our seniors, disabled adults, and disadvantaged families in the Osceola County community, without our amazing volunteers!

Daily, it is an inspiration to witness those selfless individuals like Joyce, Bo, Marilyn, and the others who contribute to the betterment of our community through volunteer service for residents who desperately need our support.

Thus, there is no better time to applaud our volunteers than during National Volunteer Month, each April. This year’s theme, “Celebrate Service,” is a time to shine a light on the individuals and philanthropic causes who inspire us to have a servant’s heart and serve those who are less fortunate.

National Volunteer Month was established in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush as a focus to honor those who devote their time, skills, and energy to contribute to charitable causes across the United States. He eloquently stated: “There can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others.”

“Volunteering is not only a way to give to the community, but also a way to enrich your own life. It is a chance to make a positive impact and create lasting change. As you serve others selflessly, you will find that you receive so much more in return,” said OCOA Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Vega.

Per HelpGuide.org, the act of volunteering itself can benefit the volunteer just as much. Volunteering helps connect with others which support making new friendships, while learning new skill sets which can also enrich one’s own sense of purpose.

“When you volunteer, you become part of something bigger than yourself. You are also contributing to the greater good and making a positive impact on society,” added Vega.

While writing this column, I read some interesting statistics related to the amount of volunteerism performed in this country. The U.S. Census Bureau says more than 64 million Americans volunteer their time and talents to philanthropic causes, with a value of more than $184 billion annually.

According to Career Builder, those who volunteer regularly have a 27 percent better chance of gaining employment. Hiring managers see the ‘act of volunteering’ as an asset for recruitment, and people who volunteer more than one hundred hours per year are among the healthiest people in the United States.

As you can imagine, it is a huge responsibility for our employees, community partners and our gracious OCOA volunteers to support more than 300,000 community members through our programs.

Whether it be delivering nearly 200,000 meals annually via Meals on Wheels, volunteering at one of our Food Pantries, seeing 3,800 patients needing care in our health clinic, or performing countless in-home service repairs, we have multiple opportunities for those who may be interested in volunteering. To learn more, call 407-933-9548.

Finally, I wish to personally thank each one of our hundreds of volunteers for their efforts in support of our mission. The fact of the matter is, without our volunteers, it would be impossible to fulfill our vision, mission, and exponential outreach within the Osceola community.