Guest Commentaries

Ask not what Whatcom County can do for you ...

Service clubs make communities stronger
January 4, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.

By Shauna Naf

As you break out your 2023 planner and make your resolutions, there is one important question you should ask yourself: “What am I going to do to make my community a better place this year?”

It is easy to look to our government, elected officials and nonprofits to do the heavy lifting; it is easy to sit behind our keyboards, critiquing the work that others are doing, are not doing or how they are doing it. It can be overwhelming to hear about the pain and suffering of others on the news and feel powerless to help. While none of us alone has the power to change the world, when people come together, we can accomplish great things. 

If you don’t have volunteering on your 2023 schedule yet, consider this your official invitation — or a wake-up call. Not only is it so fulfilling to give your time alongside others and see how much can be accomplished, but it could be argued that it is one’s civic duty. Our country is no stranger to chipping in and helping out. From scrap drives during World War II to helping first responders during the early days of the COVID pandemic, helping is in our blood. However, we shouldn’t wait to be mobilized by a crisis. Our fellow men and women, our country, and our planet need our help now. 

Whatcom County is ripe with a variety of volunteer needs — everything from assisting at an overnight severe bad weather shelter to park cleanup, building trails, helping seniors and gardening. Just visit to peruse upcoming volunteer needs and find activities that appeal to you. Some opportunities are two- to three-hour commitments while others are ongoing with weekly or monthly needs. 

Want to take your volunteering to the next level in 2023? Consider joining a service organization such as Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions. This is a great way to get active and meet like-minded, inspiring people as well as get to know the nonprofits the organizations support. If this sounds like something you would like to investigate further, here are four tips to find a great service organization fit:

1. Look at their track record. What causes have they supported with their hands or via fundraising? Is their focus a good fit for the causes you care about in the community?

2. Attend a meeting — or two or three. Ask yourself how comfortable you feel. Are you inspired by the meeting? Do you want to spend more time getting to know the individual members?

3. How does work get done? Is work being done by just a few individuals? By committees? Or does everyone pitch in for the cause? 

4. What is expected of members? From both a time and monetary perspective, make sure your expectations and availability of resources align with the service organizations'. 

Can you imagine what our community would be like if each of us able-bodied and able-minded individuals gave one or two hours a week? Don’t turn a blind eye or assume others are going to do it — this is your moment to decide to make a difference. Make a call, send an email and begin to make a difference today.  

Shauna Naf is a board member and membership chair of the Rotary Club of Bellingham.

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