Make happy memories while volunteering

I never thought of myself as the leader type. I remember one of my best friends running for class president when we were in high school and wondering, “How does she do that?”

I just knew I couldn’t. I was always happy to be the committee member, not the chairman.

But even though we don’t always seek leadership roles, sometimes they are thrust upon us.

This happened a few years ago when I suddenly became president of the Baltimore Figure Skating Club.

I had always loved ice skating, both skating myself and watching skating over the years, but it was when my youngest son was 10 years old that I really became immersed in the rink world.


He joined the Baltimore Figure Skating Club so that he could have private coaching and lots of ice time. As a result, I found myself hanging around the rink with other moms while our kids skated.

I loved watching the young kids learning their first jumps and spins and, over the years, improving to double jumps and complicated dances. I could see them grow up on the ice.

As we watched, we moms would chat about the kids and the club. It was a tough gig, the skating club. There were prima donna skaters and parents, fussy judges and coaches, fundraising problems. National rules and requirements had to be followed.

I eventually started helping out at club events and, when asked, reluctantly agreed to sit on the board of directors. (Elections? Ha! Most volunteer boards usually go begging for members — there is rarely competition for seats.)

One Wednesday evening several years later, as the board was discussing club business, the president announced he was resigning.

Suddenly, all eyes were on me because by this time I was the vice president and — just like that — I became president.

I surprised myself when I didn’t panic. I must have been ready for the job. By that time, I’d served in several posts for the club and was familiar with how skating clubs operate and secure in what was expected of me.

I also liked most of my fellow club members, so we were able to work together as a team.

I didn’t set any big plans or special goals. I just wanted the club to survive and be a fun place for people to learn to skate and develop their skills.

I did have to fill the treasurer’s job several times, which is harder than it sounds. Skating clubs, like many nonprofits, have to file forms with the IRS and with state authorities in addition to collecting fees and paying bills. And skating clubs have big bills — thousands of dollars to pay for ice time.

Just when I found someone good to be treasurer, her husband was transferred and she moved away. But other people stepped up to help and it all worked out.

My son hasn’t skated in years, but I still belong to the skating club. The board voted just recently to make me a lifetime member, so I can use their ice sessions for free. It’s a little payback for all my work, and I must say I really appreciate it.

Even though I’m nowhere near ready to take tests or compete, I still love to skate, so I show up at some of the club’s ice sessions and stroke around the edges of the rink.

Best of all, the little skaters keep coming and I get to watch them learn their first jumps and spins. They are so cute — they take me back to the days when my own son was on the ice. Those are memories I cherish, and for those memories, I’ll keep going back to the rink.


Teresa Cook is a copy editor for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach her at tcook@ydr.com.

Volunteer tips

  • Do volunteer. It is rewarding and you’ll make friends and learn a lot.

  • Don’t volunteer if you aren’t willing to follow through and commit the time and effort.

  • It’s not about you (or your child). The organization exists for everyone, so don’t treat it as your personal fiefdom.

  • Know when to leave and leave gracefully. It isn’t pleasant when a board officer or member leaves in a huff. Help the person who follows you. It’s the gracious thing to do.

  • Finally, if you don’t want to be the president, don’t agree to be the vice president.
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