The power of volun-telling

Sarah Tuberty, right, and her mother during a visit to Boston last year.

By Sarah Tuberty, president of the Rotaract Club of Sargent College Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

I awoke early on a Saturday morning to the sound of my mother’s voice. “Good morning Sarah, I signed us up for a Rotary service project. You should put on old clothes. We are painting a map on the Alamo Elementary School playground. Quick, we need to leave in 15 minutes”

A form of this conversation occurred more times than I can remember when I was growing up. My mother, Katheryn Tuberty, has been a member of the Vacaville Rotary Club in California, USA, since 1998. Someone recommended to her that as the new administrator of the local assisted living center, it would be a great way to get to know the community. She was hooked from the first meeting. She loved the club, the people, and the community. She is an engaged person of action, a prominent figure in town, and a “mover and shaker.” She is also the queen of “volun-telling.”

“Volun-telling” is when you are volunteered for a role before you even ask. I learned all about taking part in service projects when I was young because I was frequently volun-told. Annoying as it was to be woken up on a Saturday morning, I always went. I was able to work next to my mom and develop friendships with other Rotarian families. I believed in the Rotary mission. I felt connected, welcomed, and supported by my Rotary club. At the age of eight, I knew I was going to be a future Rotarian.

Life changing moment
When I was 14, my mother “volun-told” me to attend the district conference with her. My whole life changed when I met an inbound Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Columbia and learned about her experiences. Two years later, I became an ambassador of the Vacaville Rotary Club as an outbound youth exchange student to Lecco, Italy.

Sarah holds up the bag she received at a presidents-elect training seminar.

Upon my return, I was again “volun-told” into filling a vacant position as president of my high school’s Interact Club. I had an incredibly successful year with a variety of initiatives and turned the club around.

When I began an occupational therapy program at Boston University, I joined the Sargent College Boston University Rotaract Club, and now serve as president. My mom is the president of the Vacaville Rotary Club. We share stories from training sessions and conferences we’ve attended, as well as projects we have collaborated on. We decided for our year, we would set a fundraising goal of $1,000 to support an ongoing initiative to create an inclusive playground for children of all abilities. It features two challenge league baseball fields, one modeled after AT&T park in San Francisco and the other coincidentally after Fenway Park in Boston.

Two lessons
I have two reasons for sharing this story. First, I was fortunate to be a child of an active Rotarian. If you have children, bring them to projects, regardless of how reluctant they may be. I can assure you, I was very reluctant at 13. Explore ways to develop new club events or alter old ones to include family members and their friends. By inviting me along, my mother very intentionally instilled values of Service Above Self, and showed me what it means to be a Person of Action and to make a difference. It became part of my identity.

Second, “volun-telling” is a great way to engage young professionals who are still navigating their way into the adult world and developing careers. Don’t wait for them to ask. Let them know “we meet on Tuesdays at 12 p.m., I will put you on the roster, see you there!” This can be a very effective strategy as it breaks the ice for people. Try it out. I know quite a few people it’s worked on.

Learn more about RotaractAdd your voice to a discussion group on membership best practices.

4 thoughts on “The power of volun-telling

  1. Wow what a great Legacy your Mom has left in you & I know it’s only the beginning. You are both very blessed. Thanks for sharing & always giving!


  2. Sarah, once again you are able to put the words behind your generous and heart felt actions. I am sending this onto my stepdaughter who has two young boys.

    Sharon Herman


  3. Pingback: The power of volun-telling | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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