“In a gentle way, you can shake the world”— Mahatma Gandhi

The images from Hurricane Harvey are hard to process. What can I do to help? What difference can I make? It will be many months before the full extent of the damage from Mother Nature will be known, but for many, their lives will never be the same. They have lost loved ones, homes, family heirlooms and jobs. Life as they know it will never be the same.

I believe human beings have an innate desire to make a difference in their community and the society we live in. Witness the community members from Cincinnati and across the country who are donating time and money to help Texas recover. And, it’s not just a national catastrophe that calls us into action. Every day, soup kitchens across our area are filled with volunteers, helping to ensure that, on this day, no one will go hungry. Through volunteers and donations, thousands of local children have nutritious snacks and homework help provided in a safe and secure environment to help them thrive.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the man tossing starfish washed up on the beach back into the ocean. When questioned how that small effort would help the thousands of others washed up along miles of beach, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Without the work of amazing volunteers, the Y would not be able to make a transformational impact on community, one person at a time. The Y thanks the many volunteers who help us host supportive events like the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, a free week of camp for children of injured veterans, a Halloween dance for individuals with special needs, bridging the achievement gap by mentoring and working with kids in our afterschool programs, and helping the elderly reconnect with others after the loss of a spouse or friend. I am so proud to work for an organization that is supported by wonderful volunteers to help us collectively strengthen community.

Some of our mentees and coaches tell us they get so much more out of volunteering their time than they ever dreamed they would, seeing one person go from helpless to hopeful, becoming a volunteer themselves, is one of the most gratifying experiences they’ve had in life. We, as a community, do a lot, but there is much more work to be done. So, have you thought about your role in turning helplessness to hopefulness? Because we are designed to serve. We tend to find our best days when we roll up our sleeves on behalf of our friends.

How will you use your time, talent, and/or treasure to foster hope? Find a cause that inspires you and start today!

Jorge Perez is the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, encompassing 14 branches, overnight Camp Ernst and 70 childhood learning centers.

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