Life Lessons: Importance of Volunteering

Published: May 20 2013 05:00:00 AM EDT   Updated On: May 20 2013 07:09:17 AM EDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley reports that local volunteers saved our community nearly $50,000 last year.

People who volunteer will tell you they get more than they give.

Dr. Marc Berson, an optometrist with West End Family Eye Care in Allentown, spends his days helping people see the world as clearly as possible.

He says a recent experience volunteering has changed how he looks at just about everything.

"It's almost selfish because you feel so good after giving part of yourself that you want to give more and more," says Dr. Berson.

In January, he traveled with a group of five optometrists and six lay assistants to Haiti as part of the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.

The group went to remote villages, set up makeshift clinics and in just five days performed 1,261 full eye exams.

Many of the towns had no electricity but Dr. Berson and the group made do with batteries and what they had on hand.

Dr. Berson says, "We saw babies and we saw old people."

Many of the hundreds who came to the clinics had never had their eyes examined before. Some had serious eye problems. Others just needed the right glasses.

The group brought donated glasses and gave out what they could.

Dr. Berson also brought his daughter Ronni along. She's studying to become a registered dietician and was able to give out some advice on nutrition.

"When we were leaving, I felt bad that I couldn't stay for longer and do more for these patients."

Mark Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, says local organizations like his lean on volunteers.

Goldstein says, "There's not enough money in the non profit sector to replace the work that volunteers provide to organizations. Volunteering is the new health club. It invigorates. It renews your body. It renews your soul."

Dr. Berson says everyone has something to give and he urges everyone to reach out to help others and share whatever skills they may have.

"That skill, even though to you it might seem like it's nothing or very routine and average, to the person in need of that skill, it means the world."

You don't have to go all the way to Haiti to help someone else.

The Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley matches more than 12,000 volunteers a year with organizations that need help.

For more information, go to www.volunteerlv.org.