Time to Volunteer


Lon Ricker on his Motorcycle

Get on the Motorcycle and Ride

The kids return to school in August. What will you do with extra time? Your full-time job requires concentration. The children go to lessons and practices. Time to volunteer remains an issue.

You retire thinking you may find time to help others. But, you cannot seem to find time anything but your golf game or online interests.

Lon’s Story

Lon Ricker is a friend. I watch him from a distance as his career evolves. He’s not quite a Renaissance man but an “uncaged” spirit who loves family, freedom, and helping others. He worked with my husband. When he was promoted to a management position he hated it. With no dependents or home ownership, he quit.

After I ride around the block with him on his motorcycle I ask, “What are you going to do?” He responds, “Maybe odd jobs. For sure I will ride my bike a lot.” And he did. He looks relaxed, happy, but he tires of painting walls and carpentry. When he returns from his “free range existence,” he volunteers at the SoupMobile, a philanthropy in Dallas where the homeless eat daily. He loves it and they love him, volunteering many hours.

The leadership proposes he become the paid Development Director, which means he builds relationships and raises funds for the organization. He expands the Christmas program where the homeless stay in a fancy hotel overnight for a fabulous holiday experience, requiring many donations and volunteers. Now he’s trying something new.

After serious introspection, Lon starts a consulting agency to assist non-profits with communications and fund development. He has family obligations and is a homeowner, but he‘s a risk-taker and a king of networking. He’ll do well, resulting from his super attitude and experience.*

Limited Expertise


Ruth loves facilitating programs.

I share his story to emphasize that we find time to do what we want. Sometimes life truly interferes with volunteer ability but constraints can be excuses.

When I changed careers to write, I considered offering to teach classes at church, but I didn’t feel qualified. I don’t attend Bible studies. I don’t have a background in Biblical history or a knowledge base for interpreting miracles. My religious acumen lacks depth. But the need arises for teaching once a month.

Guess what? When I begin the class, my voice quivers and I cope with butterflies, a little like I am riding behind Lon on his huge bike. My voice becomes more confident as the group becomes attentive. I am enjoying facilitating, rather than calling it teaching.

The last two Sundays the curriculum emphasizes the need to be “Servants.” Humph! I don’t like the curriculum so I find time to customize the suggested message for the group. I use Father Gregory Boyle’s book, titled Tattoos on the Heart during the classIf a Jesuit priest can create programs for the tough gangs on the West Coast, we, too, can make a difference. He’s an excellent role model. The class may not have liked writing a poem or hearing about gangs, but they will remember the topic. The experience encourages me to share the joy in volunteer work.

While researching for the lesson, I discover several women in the church drive a great distance to Gainesville, Texas to participate in the Kairos Prison Ministry. She and her friends help female inmates find answers for a better life. When I talk with Carolyn Jones about the program, I hear passion in her voice.

Volunteer work is important, no matter what you choose. No time? Try hard to MAKE time. You may find a new passion in life, which may feel like riding a Harley-Davidson when you walk in the door to a meeting the first time or two.

With the enormous number of philanthropies, finding a fit for your volunteer effort should be easy. You may find new confidence, new relationships for your career, and more personal rewards than challenges.

Eighteen Worthy Non-Profits

Susan G. Komen Foundation-research and assistance for cancer patients

KERA-public radio and television

Rotary International-many worthy community activities

Lions Club-helping people with eye problems and the need for eyeglasses

Hearts and Hammers-refurbish low-income housing needs

Soupmobile-feed the homeless; ancillary services

Salvation Army-donate your gently used stuff; maybe be a bell ringer at Christmas

Red Cross-help with blood donation

Bed Start-donate beds and other furniture for families sleeping on the floor

Gateway of Grace-build ramps, helping with building projects

Food pantries-amazing grace

Board memberships-new friends and insight

Kiwanis Club-service projects and fundraising for children

Book Clubs-get to know your neighbors

HOA-home owners’ association which helps the communities stay safe, presentable and friendly

Habitat for Humanity-donate furniture, refurbish and resell


Tools for Finding Peace

Jack worries about finances.  Susan is concerned about her mother’s health.  “The Little Drummer Boy” pounds on your head from allergies and stress.  You need to find peace for your chaos.  Many already know stress-reducing practices, but may need a reminder that peace comes from a variety of “tools.”

Quiet time is important

Quiet time helps you find peace.

Quiet Time

Find a little quiet time every day, even if you must hide in the bathroom temporarily.  Meditate on the good things in your life.  Concentrate on creating new traditions, especially if the old ones are, well…old!  Find quiet time for prayer.  Others may find respite with reflection.  Maybe a 20-minute nap will bring new peace to chaos.


Music helps soothe emotions.  If you are a jazz enthusiast, make sure you have a CD in the car to provide a little peace on the way to the shopping center.  If you like the classics, attend a concert.  Plenty of places have free or low cost programs.  Sing in the choir.  Whistle in the shower.

Power of the Pen

Journaling daily can help you express your feelings.  Write a long email to a friend in another part of the country.  Set a time to send e-cards to old friends or one of encouragement to someone with a serious ailment.  “I’m too busy” is not an option.  Make appointments with yourself to complete tasks.


Take the dog for a walk or go to the gym.  Deep breathing provides a short-term solution with immediate benefits.  Stop procrastinating about shopping with the massive crowds. Shopping can be invigorating and will bring peace when you find the “perfect” gift.  How about playing  a quick game of basketball with the kids, if you have a hoop nearby?  The kids need for you to be calm.  A little physical exercise produces endorphins to help you cope.


The holiday season is not about you and your chaos.  It’s about helping others, whether for family or community involvement.

If you can’t think of any local agencies in the immediate area, look at www.bedstart.org, a Plano organization you can help on Saturday mornings, especially if you have a truck and a strong back.  Are you purchasing some new bedroom furniture?  Doug Nickols and his group need your old bed for people who are sleeping on the floor.  Check their website for additional information.

I asked Doug his definition of peace, knowing how difficult his life must be, as he works full time at Thermal Edge, yet finds time to manage Bedstart.  Think about what he means:

“When generously invited in, one can only say “Peace to this house” if your peace exists from the material distractions, social stratification and tedious formalities of this world.

The Soupmobile helps feed the homeless on a daily basis in downtown Dallas.  At Christmas, they provide a warm bed, food, gifts and love to 500 homeless men, women and children at the Omni Hotel.  You will find a new sense of peace if you volunteer time and energy helping Lon Ricker, who coordinates the event for those who have no place to go on Christmas Eve.  Please read more about the Soupmobile’s amazing achievements.  Lon is the Director of Development.

Here is Lon’s method of creating peace with his seasonal chaos:

“Give it all to God, ’cause worrying about it isn’t going to help,” —paraphrased

from Phillippians 4:6-7 

Don’t let chaos control your Christmas season.  Use your own “tools” to inner peace and the world around you will be far less chaotic.