What happened to winter? After living in South Carolina for the past 10 years, I was so excited at the prospect of a white winter for a change. I know I am not too far from my Columbia origin, but with being closer to the mountains, I just figured that seeing more than a dusting of snow was in my future. Oh, well, maybe next year, because spring seems to be here in full effect. Time to do some spring-cleaning, break out the lighter clothing and get out amongst the living!

Speaking of getting back out amongst the living, this past weekend I returned to Columbia to take part in the AIDS Benefit Foundation of South Carolina’s Dining with Friends Dessert Finale. The event was a tremendous success. I have served on their board for the past two years and it is one of the few volunteer initiatives I was able to remain active with when I lived in Columbia. I have always enjoyed volunteering with organizations I am passionate about, but in doing my daily routine I often find myself unable to make time to do so.

Now that I am no longer in Columbia, I have begun looking at ways I can get involved with organizations here in Charlotte.

There are many great organizations based in North Carolina whose efforts are strongly influenced by their volunteer force. Without volunteers many non-profit and support agencies do not have the manpower to reach their maximum effectiveness. HIV outreach and support is something that is important to me, but there are many more organizations that work in different fields that are always looking for additional support.

It is easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routine and with spring in full bloom, the idea of sacrificing our precious free moments to volunteer may seem like the last thing we would want to do. The fact is volunteering can be a fun and rewarding experience. You just have to find an organization or cause that you are passionate about. One thing I loved about the AIDS Benefit Foundation was that I was able to help a cause I was passionate about while also having a great time! You don’t have to make it a second job; organizations understand that your time is precious and most only ask of you what you are able to give.

Currently I am working to build a team for the 2012 AIDS Walk Charlotte and I am looking forward to us walking together in May to raise money and awareness for RAIN. House of Mercy also has an AIDS walk coming up in April. Participating in outdoor campaigns such as these is a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather while doing something good for a great cause.

So, while you are getting into the spring season, I encourage you to find something you are passionate about and make a difference in that area. Currently, the Coalition to Protect All NC Families is working across the state to fight Amendment One and they need volunteer support to get the message out. The Coalition’s work is extremely important and I hope that you will support them however you can.

Also, remember that you don’t have to focus on volunteering exclusively within the LGBT community.

Working with youth, volunteering at museums or theaters and helping with homeless resources are other ideas for ways to help your community. Remember, you don’t have to commit all of your free time to make a difference. Perhaps, you and some friends can all go in together and pick something you are all passionate about and help out for a day. Find something you love about your community and help it grow! : :

O'Neale Atkinson

O'Neale Atkinson is a former editor of QNotes, serving in the position from Jan. 23, 2012 to June 15, 2012. His first issue as editor was published on Feb. 4, 2012. His last issue was published June 23,...