A Commissioner’s Reflection

Guest Submission by former Volunteer Iowa Commissioner Bernie Van Roekel

As I reflect on my six years as a Commissioner with Volunteer Iowa (the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service), I am more convicted than I ever have been on the positive impact of volunteerism and the impact the Volunteer Iowa has on helping Iowans become engaged in service opportunities.

I must admit that I was very naïve as it relates to the scope, depth and breadth of the many areas that Volunteer Iowa is involved in when I first became a Commissioner.  More often than not, I felt overwhelmed and totally unprepared for my role during my first year on the Commission.  Through the support of the Commission staff and the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge through committee assignments and interacting with other Commissioners, I gradually became more comfortable in my role.

I have had the opportunity to be involved with several of the Commission’s committees and have had various roles in this capacity, all of which have helped me become more effective and involved as a Commissioner.  I have served on the Program Development Committee, co-chaired the Public Policy Committee, am a member of the Executive Committee and am currently the vice-chair of the Commission.  I have also had the opportunity to be a reviewer for the Volunteer Generation Fund, the Excellence in Mentoring Awards, and the Iowa Department of Public Health Grant as well as being involved with numerous program certification reviews.  I have also had the opportunity to meet with state legislators and encourage them to support various volunteer initiatives.  These experiences have been educational, rewarding, and have (in my mind) validated the importance of community service and volunteerism.

Being a Commissioner has provided me the opportunity to annually attend the Volunteer Hall of Fame Awards and the Excellence in Mentoring Awards ceremonies.  It has been motivational and inspirational to see Iowans honored who make an impact in their local communities and the state through their work as volunteers.  The goal of these dedicated volunteers is to share their time and talents and make a difference in the lives of others.

Words cannot express my respect and admiration for the staff of Volunteer Iowa.  They are all extremely dedicated and committed to the cause of service and volunteerism.  I would characterize them as generalists who wear many hats and respond to the myriad of needs of the programs they serve across the state, focusing on supporting these programs with the goal of making them stronger and more efficient.  These same words apply to the Commissioners who model professionalism and commitment to the cause of service.

Personally, my role on the Commission has motivated me to become more heavily involved in volunteerism in my local community, something I plan on continuing well into the future.  I have also made a more conscious effort to inform others of volunteer opportunities and have encouraged these individuals to make a difference in the lives of others by volunteering.

I am extremely grateful and appreciative to have had the opportunity to serve on the Commission and to have had the experience of working with a dedicated group of professionals.  These are memories I will cherish for a lifetime.

The team at Volunteer Iowa would like to extend our thanks again to Bernie for all that he has done for the Commission over his six years of service. (Photo is Bernie accepting a token of recognition at his last Commission meeting in June.)

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