Volunteerism is a crucial source of support for Milwaukee nonprofits. In 2014, volunteers gave 58 million hours of service, worth approximately $877.7 million. Many Milwaukee nonprofits use Volunteer Milwaukee, an NPC program and website, to get connected with the volunteers they count on.
This is the story of one of those volunteers, Bill Bravener, who serves Penfield Children’s Center. The center helps children ages 3 months to 6 years reach their full potential through education, therapy services and family programs. They provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy and have a behavioral clinic, outpatient therapy clinics, and a special care nursery as well as an accredited daycare for children up to age 6.
Knowing how much volunteers mean to nonprofits – I asked Bill what the experience has been like for him.
What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I saw a notice in the newspaper for “volunteers needed” [in Volunteer Milwaukee's Helping Hands column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] and I had recently started semi-retirement.
What kind of help do you provide?
I interact one to one with the children, assist the teachers in class activities, and chaperone on field trips.
How long have you volunteered there?
I've volunteered in classrooms of two- and three-year-old children for three years.
What surprised you the most about volunteering?
That I receive more benefits from volunteering than I provide.
When you think about your paid jobs, how is a volunteering different or the same?
My career has been as a public school music teacher and a church music director. This is similar in that I continue to have the opportunity to work with children – which I love.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
The children are so accepting of each other, no matter the developmental ability or ethnicity. They are good reminders to all of us that we are in this together, and to make the most out of life, and to celebrate our diversity.
Has it changed your view of the world in any way? My experience at Penfield reminds me that the more we help kids get off to a good start, especially kids with special challenges, the better our world will be.
Has it changed your view of this community in any way?
Penfield Children’s Center has made me more aware of the needs in our community and the many wonderful resources that are available for families.
Has volunteering had benefits for you?
In addition to enjoying my time with the children, I like interacting with the staff and developing friendships – it’s been a very positive experience.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
I feel good about being a positive male role model in the children’s lives.
Would you recommend volunteering to others?
I recommend it because you will get far more than you give. Volunteering is a great use of your time. It makes you feel engaged in your community, that you are making a difference.
Milwaukee nonprofits can get free listings of their volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer Milwaukee website and other venues by joining NPC.