By Rev. Dennis Gilbert
Centerville First United Methodist Church
---- — I grew up near a small town in northwest Iowa during the 1950s and 1960s. You would probably think not much was going on in the small community of 160 people. There was no theater, no bowling alley was available, nor was there a roller skating rink. Hardly any of the places that seemed exciting for young people to gather back then existed in Larrabee. It was deemed a virtue to make one’s own entertainment. Aside from family, chores, school and church, social outings might have been rare. Fortunately the community was made up of an uncanny number of caring adults. I often wonder if those old people truly knew what a difference they made in my life. I didn’t often take the time to say thank you.
Back in 1960, I had a personal crisis. You see, as a nine year old, I had plans to play professional baseball. I just knew that one day I would play second base for the Chicago White Sox. There was no organized or unorganized baseball activity near Larrabee. How could I ever be discovered by pro scouts if I was denied an arena to shine? I pled my case. I guess a whiny kid can have some impact. By June of 1960, adults in the community had met to organize a little league team that could travel. A ball field was constructed. Coaches and managers stepped forward to volunteer their time. Uniforms were ordered. Equipment was purchased. Nobody wanted to catch, so I stepped up even though I had my eye on second base. Through this I discovered by true position, backstop. Moreover, I discovered some great role models. The on field help, the organizers behind the scences and the support of all the folks that actually showed up to watch some of the worst baseball ever played. I am so thankful for the opportunity provided by caring adults.
I am thankful for the volunteers that led 4-H. Boy Scouts provided an opportunity for growth and adventure because of the adult leaders providing time that could easily have been spent elsewhere. The fine arts and access to knowledge were valued and shared without regard of social standing or income level. Indeed many of the best volunteers were people who did not have great sums of money, nice cars or large farms. Yes, opportunities abounded in the Larrabee area simply because of the generous service of caring adults. A large part of whatever is right in me today owes a debt to those adults.
I have been impressed with the volunteerism in Centerville. Since moving here less than a year ago, I have witnessed the passionate volunteers involved in this community. To all of you, I say thank you. You are among those who truly make a difference in our community. Others will grow because of your influence. Keep up the good work.
If you are not presently a volunteer, I encourage you to become involved. Be a positive difference maker in Centerville. I know you can be just that.
Finally, learn with me the value of saying thank you. That is the only pay volunteers receive. Believe me, thank you means a lot.