Carrie Harkness Shares Her Top Four Tips for New Volunteers

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Carrie Harkness, a Program Manager based in Alma, has been an active volunteer with her children’s extracurricular activities for years. She’s volunteered with the Hoofbeaters 4H Club for seven years, organized and now coaches the Montabella Equestrian Team and is actively involved in the newly-formed Montabella Robotics Team. In celebration of Make a Difference Day, we asked this veteran volunteer for some tips to share with others who want to get involved in their own communities.

Follow your kids’ passions.

I encourage you to follow your kids’ passions and become passionate with them. Really dive in and learn about the programs they’re involved in. Educating yourself and taking the initiative to find out how you can help is the best way to support them in what they love.

If you don’t have the time, make the time.

It’s easy for us to say we don’t have enough time to volunteer, but I believe the key is to make the time for what’s most important. Sometimes this means making sacrifices elsewhere. Our vacation plans revolve around fair week, equestrian competitions, and other events, but it’s always worth it to engage in what is important to my kids.

Take the time to listen to community needs.

You’ll never know where your time and talents are most needed unless you really listen to what’s going on in the community and adjust your programs accordingly. Our county has a large 4H group of over 30 members and it takes a lot of adult volunteers to make everything run smoothly. After receiving feedback that our group was focusing largely on horses and putting fewer resources elsewhere in the club, we decided to adjust. I moved over from horses to become Project Leader over the livestock area of the club. We were able to reallocate our time and resources to make sure everyone felt supported.

If an opportunity isn’t there, make it happen.

When my daughter begged me to switch schools so she could participate in an equestrian team, I knew that wasn’t feasible. Instead, I decided to research what it would take to form a local team from the ground up, and worked to organize the Montabella Equestrian Team. Horses provide our youth with experience in responsibility, accountability, team work and many other valuable life lessons. The equestrian team provides the opportunity for our youth to compete with their horses against other schools. 

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