When Linda Lee was looking for a roommate in the early 1970s, she turned to the YWCA. She thought the organization might have a program that introduced people looking for roommates to each other. Alas, it did not have such a program, so Lee complained to a YWCA board member that it should.
The board member encouraged Lee to get involved with the YWCA and start the program herself, so she did.
That encounter shaped Lee's philosophy when it comes to volunteering: If you believe an organization should be offering a service that it's not, you have no right to complain until you have been involved and tried to change it yourself.
"If you've tried to change it and they've refused, then you can criticize," Lee said. "But if you're just sort of making comments from the peanut gallery, that's not fair."
Lee's longest-standing volunteer commitment is serving on the board of the Manitoba chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a worldwide network of more than 16,000 communications professionals.
Lee has been with the chapter since its inception in 1974. Her involvement has included two stints as chapter president, and she currently volunteers as director of career development, assisting members who wish to develop their knowledge and skills.
After a fulfilling career in journalism and communications, which included a three-year stint at the Winnipeg Free Press in the early 1970s, Lee retired from Manitoba Public Insurance in 2008 but continues to serve on the IABC board.
Mentoring IABC members, as well as hosting the judging for IABC's national and international awards programs, are some of the things with which she's been involved.
A naturally gifted writer, Lee says her motivation for joining the IABC was purely selfish at first -- she wanted opportunities for professional development. She remains involved today because it keeps her mind sharp.
"It requires that I continue to use the skills, experience and knowledge that I've learned over the years," she said. "It's very true: You use it or you lose it."
Assisting young people as they progress in their careers, and helping them find solutions to problems they are faced with, are things she is passionate about.
"In many cases, I'm not finding them the solutions, but I'm really good at asking questions and making them think it through and come up with their own solutions," Lee said. "I get satisfaction because I feel I'm still being valued."
She adds the IABC is beneficial for members because communications can be a lonely business. Often, members are the only person in their specialty at their place of work. Involvement with the IABC allows them to share their concerns and get support from other communicators.
Lee points out volunteering is a good way for people to get their money's worth when they join an organization such as the IABC, which charges membership fees.
"If you wait for the services and benefits that come to you, you don't get near the value of your membership money," she said. "You get your value if you get involved."
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