I always get a bit of a blank stare when I tell someone that my platform is Volunteerism… and I get it.  It seems like a no-brainer, especially in the pageant world because we are all volunteers for our own causes and platforms.  So why pick something that is so obvious?

I have gone to a religiously-affiliated school from Pre-K through college, was very active in my church community growing up, and even participated in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports leagues.  Every step of the way we were expected (not in a forceful way, but with the encouragement that it was the right thing to do) to always be giving.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter basket contributions were second nature, canned food or book drives were recurring events, and attending soup kitchens as class field trips were part of my way of life.  I didn’t realize until I my later teen years that this wasn’t common behavior across the board.

I became acutely aware that those who don’t routinely volunteer might not be doing so on purpose.  Most of the people I have come in contact with just don’t know how to find opportunities, and they don’t know how versatile volunteering can be.

I started promoting a site that I was actually using in my own time to find and squeeze volunteer events into an already packed schedule.  And so, my love for VolunteerMatch began (VolunteerMatch is the world’s largest online resource for volunteers).  Go to volunteermatch.org right now! (just kidding, read first and click later).  Create a volunteer profile, do a search based on location and cause, peruse the options like remote volunteering that allow you to offer services from home, sort by date to fit your schedule… Simply notice how convenient this tool is for people of all ages to use.   This is the new age of volunteerism – making service work for you.

This year, I want to turn the excuses why people don’t volunteer into excitement by introducing them to ways that make the entire experience personal, customized, and completely fulfilling.  When we are socially aware of the needs of our neighbors both near and far - quality of life increases, feelings of self-worth improve, and communities can be strengthened from the inside out.

My favorite image from my trip to Kenya in 2009.  I can still hear the joy in their voices as they jumped on me and tickled me from all angles.

A special moment at this year’s Special Olympics NY state championships.  These two athletes stole a kiss on each cheek from me – I love the spirit in each of our faces.  An experience I will always cherish.

Jesse Ladoue


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