"Volunteering is contagious. The more you volunteer, the more you want to volunteer. When you volunteer, you gain more personally than you give."
Jeralyn Westercamp, 15, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, volunteers for American veterans in her local community.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Jeralyn: For the last eight years I have been providing service and assistance to American veterans in my community.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Jeralyn: For my project "Care and Share", I volunteered my time, talents, and resources for American veterans in my community and at the Veterans' Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. I have volunteered over 233 hours this past year at the Veterans' Hospital.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Jeralyn: American veterans benefit from my volunteer service. This past year I earned the funds to make and donate over 250 new fleece blankets, 300 toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste, and 75 May baskets. I sewed welcome packs, designed and constructed 200 tray favors, 200 door decorations, 200 bookmarks, and assembled over 850 crossword puzzles for the hospital. I constructed over 300 Valentine treat bags for veterans in Cedar Rapids area nursing homes.
What inspired you to get involved?
Jeralyn: My grandmother, a World War II Army nurse who served in the China, Burma, India Theater is my role model. She toiled eighteen hour days helping wounded American soldiers, and when she had a few hours available, she volunteered at Mother Teresa's leper colony. Grandmother instilled within me that when I volunteer, I give a gift that keeps on giving.
How did you first get involved? Through school? Your parents? Give us some details.
Jeralyn: My older sisters greatly admire our Grandmother. They also contribute volunteer service for veterans and when I was eight years old I started volunteering with them.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Jeralyn: I have inspired others to volunteer their time and talents to assist American veterans. American veterans have answered the call. They gave their "todays" for our "tomorrows." They stood the watch for freedom and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
What is/was the hardest part?
Jeralyn: Encoraging other young people to make time and take time in their schedules to volunteer for veterans.
What was the biggest surprise?
Jeralyn: Volunteering is contagious. The more you volunteer, the more you want to volunteer. When you volunteer, you gain more personally than you give.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Jeralyn: Working with diverse people in all age groups through my volunteer efforts has taught me that life is a series of experiences to form our character and to direct our future, By volunteering, I'll ensure a brighter future for my world.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Jeralyn: Volunteer your time and talents because volunteers are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
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