“It doesn’t matter what your skills are. There are always opportunities for all of us to give back,” says John Gemma, who has volunteered in some capacity for as long as he can remember. The 71-year-old has always given back to his church, but since retiring from his job at the Pentagon, he began looking for new ways to get involved. He is a team leader with Habitat for Humanity and volunteers with Voices for CASA Children, an organization dedicated to being a voice for abused and neglected children. John says he knows that working directly with at-risk or abused children would be too difficult for him, so he handles administrative duties and back-of-the-house tasks to support the organization and its volunteers in fulfilling their mission.
John is committed to making a difference in his community. We spoke with him to learn more about his commitment to service, and what motivates him to give back.
What inspires you to give back?
My sister’s service as a prioress for an order of Dominican nuns has long inspired me. Also, our son is adopted, so I’ve always had a soft spot for children who need a home and loving care.
Describe your volunteer role.
I couldn’t handle it if I knew a kid was being abused, so I said I would do administrative things [for Voices for CASA Children]. I administer our gas card program from Circle K. Since all of the advocates are volunteers, the program helps them pay for gas. Each month I get a list of the top 25 volunteers ranked the by miles they drive. I’ve also helped with the back-to-school backpack program for the kids, and getting gift card donations around the holidays. I have worked with them for eight years, and have been a team lead for more than four years.
What's been the most rewarding part of your work?
Talking to the advocates, hearing about what they do and how they do it, and the difference they make to these kids.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I’ve learned that we can all do something. It doesn’t matter what your skills are. There are always opportunities for all of us to give back.
Are there any future programs or events that you are excited about?
I intend to volunteer for other programs at Voices with whatever they need throughout the whole year, and I’m going to continue working as a team leader for Habitat. In the past 22 years the four Lutheran Churches in this area, including my church, have donated money to build 22 houses. We are very proud of that.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
How can I put this? The environment that we are in now in our country is filled with a lot of negativity and hate speech. We need to learn that everybody is important. All human beings are important. A lot of people need our help and each of us should be doing something about it.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
The idea that we can all do something, as little as we might think, and it does help. It’s incredible how much satisfaction comes from even the smallest jobs giving back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like John? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Written by Beth D’Addono.