Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | A few months ago Neil Morgan told me about VoiceofSanDiego.org. I logged on, was hooked, subscribed and made a suggestion. This suggestion is one that I have voiced to many. “Please highlight volunteerism in San Diego.” Neil immediately returned my e-mail. He said “You have a wonderful idea. Volunteerism is a subject that is very dear to me. This is a neglected issue and volunteers are a neglected subject. Our country desperately needs more of them.”

Volunteerism has been and continues to be a vital underpinning of the fabric of our community. America has always had an ideal of hard work and a volunteer spirit. I am a second generation “career volunteer” in San Diego. My mother, who worked at the very beginning of the La Jolla Playhouse, would never have thought of herself as such. And yet she, and her contemporaries and friends, who founded organizations such as Las Patronas, the San Diego Opera Guild, and the Junior Theater, were just that – career volunteers. The legacy that they left, not only to their families but to the community as a whole, is invaluable. The legacy that our current volunteers leave is immeasurable.

I hope to submit a monthly article about volunteerism for this important communication tool. Volunteerism in its very nature is something that is given of one’s own free will. It is understood that, inherently, it is given with a dedication and a heightened sense of caring. It brings people – of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles together. In my experience, the best and most lasting of friendships develop in volunteer settings – where people with like interests and passions come together for the common good.

There are many paths to effective service as a volunteer, and I plan to explore these in another column. I began my career at Stanford University where in my senior year I was chairman of the Convalescent Home Drive. After graduation, I moved back to San Diego and joined the Junior League of San Diego. That institution was and is a wonderful training organization for young women. Through the Junior League and its placement service, I explored many different opportunities.

I look forward to sharing many of my experiences (and those of others) such as the day – when I, eight-months pregnant, arrived at the Museum of Man to help with a new exhibit. I was assigned to sit in the midst of an unfinished exhibit about “the family” and paint the back wall. There I sat, all morning as visitors to the museum walked by and commented on the lifelike qualities of the exhibit.

I hope to explore the history of volunteerism, levels of volunteerism, volunteerism specific to San Diego, membership on nonprofit boards, volunteerism at the high-school level and many more subjects. I want to highlight individuals and groups. I would like to hear from our readers what they would like to know. But most of all I hope to inspire someone to take time from their schedule, find a place to volunteer and make a difference.

Jane Trevor Fetter has been a volunteer in the San Diego community for over 45 years. She is currently chairing the San Diego Foundation’s 30th anniversary celebration on October 15, 2005 at the San Diego Convention Center. You can e-mail her at

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