National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 12-18, is an ideal time to recognize individuals that spend countless hours dedicating their time and service for the greater good of humanity. It’s also the perfect time for you to discover new opportunities and ways to get involved in your community.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with George Knight, a Fayette County resident who has spent more than 20 years volunteering for Red Cross Disaster Services and more than 15 years assisting the Fayette County Fire Department and Emergency Management Agency. Knight discusses how he became a volunteer, the most frightening disaster he’s ever experienced, finding the time to volunteer and more.
When did you decide to become a volunteer?
I have to give my wife credit. She really got me into volunteering more than any other person. She’s been a lifelong volunteer and believes greatly in the volunteering experience. Over the years, I have observed her closely. Even when I was in the Air Force, she found time to volunteer with the military doing various assignments. That has always stuck with me.
What do you like most about volunteering?
When I volunteer, I truly feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I have also met so many wonderful people that really put their heart and soul into helping those in need and I’ve really enjoyed that connection. I’ve also realized that there are so many things that can’t be accomplished with just paid staff. Often times, there are not enough paid people to do the work that needs to be done, and volunteers help fill that void. Once you get started, you quickly realize that you can make a big difference. Volunteers are truly the life blood of an organization.
What was the most intense disaster that you’ve witnessed?
In the late 1990’s, there were some pretty bad tornadoes that swept through the Dunwoody area. Following the disaster, we went into a few neighborhoods that were hit and assisted the residents to make sure that they had water and food. We also provided information about nearby shelters in case they needed a place to stay. It was the first time I had assisted in this capacity and I was struck by the degree of damage to the neighborhood. Being out there really got my attention and emphasized to me how important it is to pay attention to the local weather forecast and to be prepared.
After 20 plus years of volunteering, how do you continue to find the time to volunteer?
I learned from my wife a long time ago that you can always find time. When I first decided to get involved, I was working as a pilot, but I still found time to attend various organizations’ meetings and observe what they did. During this process, I found ones that I felt comfortable with. Now that I am retired, my schedule isn’t as hectic.
Volunteers play a critical role in preparing for and recovering from disasters. Learn more about organizations in and volunteer opportunities in your community.