Associate Magazine FBINAA Q2-2023


FBINAA.ORG | Q2 2023

Mike Hardee

The Spiritual Gift of Volunteering

I still have vivid memories of the moment I was appointed chair of the 2016 Florida Retrainer Conference—immediately, I was paralyzed by severe abdominal cramps. Not knowing anything about event planning whatsoever, I could only conclude that the reason I was selected for this task was that it was a daunting amount of work and apparently, as I stood in that imaginary line up of potential candidates being considered, everyone else had taken a huge step backward. The shock of what I would be responsible for was over whelming, especially when I was handed a 5-inch thick, 3-ring binder of duties and responsibilities. Until that moment, my idea of volunteering for an NA conference was to simply show up and enjoy the experience. For the next several days I poured over the notebook, si lently plotting revenge on the so-called friend who’d nominated me. Suddenly I was reminded of a man I knew in the mid-1970s named Lew Whitacre. I first met Lew when he applied for a position that I and many others were certain no one in their right mind would want—an unpaid position that required Lew to recruit and manage hundreds of other unpaid workers with little to no law enforcement training or certification to represent the Florida Game and Fish Commission’s (GFC) Wildlife Reserve Program. Even though I was supposed to oversee the program, I ad mit I had reservations about whether this program would work. It was a thankless task. All costs of participation in the Wildlife Reserve Program would be at the volunteers’ own expense. Uniforms, training, and transportation were their responsibility. The GFC did not cover any of that. Why would anyone volunteer for that? But over the next 10 years, Lew managed to get more than 300 dedicated professional volunteers to sign on to support the mission of the Florida GFC. I’d always wondered how he did it. And then I had my own volunteer spiritual awakening. Days after the shock of being made conference chair, I was amazed to see the outpouring of support from agencies across all of Florida offering their resources, time, and staff to help plan the re-trainer conference. I was not alone, as it turned out; these people (many of whom, I think, feared for my mental health and well-being) were all willing to step in and hold my hand as I began the process of what would later become one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had. The dread had been replaced with the gift of caring and sup port. Our planning meetings were filled with spirited discussions about who was best for each task, creative ideas about how to give our members the best experiences yet, and excitement and passion to make this conference shine like a new penny. I sat in these meetings for many months, surrounded by a very special group of people, witnessing the power of con nection by volunteers who were willing to give their time for

something they felt was important to them. Working after-hours, on weekends, and even on holidays challenged us at times, but the desire to accomplish what we were committed to was the reward; we were dedicated to the cause of giving back to our membership. There were times the finish line seemed out of reach but working together for a common goal and getting through the many roadblocks along the way helped pull us together. It gave us a common bond, and by the time the conference arrived, we were a family, with an energy and commitment that I’d never experienced in any other group before that. This was Lew Whitacre’s secret sauce—the thing that had drawn people to him and made them willing to pitch in and work hard for no expense reimbursement and no pay. There had been skeptics—but what they underestimated was the power of giving of oneself for a cause you believe in. Lew was a committed conservationist and avid duck hunter. When he spoke to groups about his passion for volunteering in the Wildlife Reserve Program, audiences would line up to apply. His message was about personal growth and the precious gift of taking part in something meaningful. Lew led his volunteers by example. His willingness to give of himself was infectious. He never complained under the most challenging circumstances. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve, if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8 That brings us back to the spiritual benefits of belonging to the FBINAA. From the time we graduate from the Academy, we are given the opportunity to stay involved in our local chapters and with the National Board and training staff. The reasons we join the

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