Originally created 10/06/01

Time and talent



At every turn, the wheels of charitable organizations are powered by volunteers - but what keeps volunteers going?

"You have to love it to do it," said Grace Davis.

She left nursing in 1985 to care for her ailing mother and now operates a personal-care home.

"Don't ask me what all I do, I can't remember myself," said Ms. Davis, who whipped up a velvet cake for a church fund-raiser, ran to the drugstore for neighbors and drove people to doctors' appointments this week.

She said she can't sit still when the need in the community is so great. "Sometimes I get tired, but the Lord keeps me going because he knows I am helping someone else."

Here is a sampling of what inspires other Augusta-area volunteers:

WHEN GERALD JOHNSON, 47, walks into the North Augusta studios of Christian family station WBPI-TV (Channel 36), he senses an overriding peace. "That's what keeps you coming back" - that and the gospel message the station delivers, he said.

During the past 16 months, he has averaged about 22 hours a week at the station, much of it behind a TV camera. It's a skill he learned taping worship services for his church, Living Word Christian Center.

"Watch between 8 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and you will see the mistakes we make because they are not edited out," he said with a laugh.

He is one of about 40 volunteers who keep the station on the air.

Mr. Johnson, who teaches study skills at Augusta State University, also works occasionally as a master controller at the station. The position recently became "slightly paid," he said.

After operating on an all-volunteer basis for about five years, the station's owner-managers, Dorothy and Russell Spaulding, decided to give some compensation to a handful of workers, said Pat Alabaugh, a volunteer-turned-staff member.

Besides tending to the business of broadcasting, volunteers answer prayer-request lines and pray with callers. Others come monthly to fold newsletters.

The folders are very faithful, said Ms. Alabaugh, who loves to hear them working during the two to three long days it takes to finish the task. "I hear them giggling and laughing and saying 'hallelujah' - having a good time talking about the Lord."

VOLUNTEERS CAN FORM "a very good support system" with co-workers, said June Kunkel, who placed people with about 50 agencies through the Senior Citizens Council until health concerns curtailed her efforts last year.

But when people are not paid, recognition programs that publicly thank volunteers are important, she said.

Her career as a volunteer is varied. Mrs. Kunkel has sung in the choir at Congregation Children of Israel for nearly 30 years, works in the Judaica gift shop there and occasionally writes for the Augusta Jewish Community Center newsletter.

She has also served as a rape counselor, organized volunteer retiree groups, taught art in schools and contributed many hours to PTA and to a muscular dystrophy support group.

Serving the community was always important in her family when she was growing up, said Mrs. Kunkel. "I have a very strong feeling of commitment and 'give-back' to the community."

But she found working with senior volunteers, such as Tessie Blount and Ruby Lloyd, especially inspiring, she said. Seniors "often put in hundreds of hours."

Mrs. Blount, who died in August at age 101, began serving as a foster grandparent at age 93. "Her attitude was just superlative," said Mrs. Kunkel, who recalled that Mrs. Blount loved wearing spike heels.

Mrs. Lloyd, who died at age 91 in January 2000, earned many awards, during her life including President George Bush's Point of Light award in 1992. After suffering a stroke while visiting her son in Augusta, she moved to the area and began volunteering. "She was such a motivating person - everybody felt better just talking to her," Mrs. Kunkel said.

FUND-RAISING is another role volunteers often fulfill.

Piles of hot dogs, hamburgers, sweets and drinks will go on sale at Mrs. Davis' church, St. Paul Baptist, 11 Telfair St., at 9 a.m. today. They're working to buy new choir robes.

"We might fry some chicken wings," Mrs. Davis said. "But I haven't gotten that far yet."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.