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As I'm writing this, I'm heading into a new endeavor in my volunteering journey. With LEADERship Ashtabula County, we always stress the importance of civic engagement – and with that is community involvement and volunteering.

The joy of volunteering is that you can pick from many opportunities in our area to give your time and resources. If you're into animals, there's an option; if you're into coaching – there's an option; if you're into gardening – there's an option (and these are just a few of so many!).

I was taking a professional development course a few years ago, and they had an ice breaker called "would you rather," where they ask a question and people choose which answer they would prefer. The question that really stuck with me was, "Would you rather focus on the community first or your family first?" – the room was split. The ideas argued were that to build healthy families, you need a strong community, versus to build a strong community, you first need a strong family. I believe the answer lies in the middle – at different points, you need to focus on your community, but at times you also need to focus on your family (very similar to that work-life balance discussion).

As people's schedules get busier, you may ask how to stay involved in volunteering. How do you stay inspired to give back? How do you stay motivated to help make Ashtabula grow? I see many wonderful leaders in this community who give of themselves to help our county. And in my position, I want to continue to support these leaders and organizations that serve Ashtabula. Every day, I'm inspired by so many who make it their mission to help others, and I strive to be a better person by seeing those traits of selflessness in others. I strive to give back to set a good example for my children and hopefully inspire others.

With that in mind, though, there are seasons where we must recognize that may not always be the case and step back – I know I've had to step back at times to focus on my family, just like I recognize that need in others at times. In acknowledging that, you can also see the continued need for community service and that by stepping back, other leaders can step forward, and when you return, there are new opportunities and ways to serve.

I can't encourage community engagement enough. Our communities embody the people who live and work within. As we kick back into our busy season of back-to-school, programs beginning, and dare I even mention the holidays (!), I'd like to know the following: how do you stay committed and engaged with our community? It changes over time, but what inspires you and helps to "refill your tank" when volunteering? And I'll close with if you're looking for ways to engage in our community, let me know because there's an opportunity for you!


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