Monday, August 29, 2005 | In preparation for this, my third monthly column on volunteerism, I e-mailed my current fellow committee members on the San Diego Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Celebration Committee. I asked them for any wisdom they had for this article.

Most of them, like I am, are career volunteers. They began in their late teens or twenties and have devoted the time, not spent on family, to volunteer jobs.

I try to schedule my time so that after home, and family, (and I include my fur family in this category) and health, I have one major volunteer commitment. I then also accept continuing commitments, which are usually board positions, and the “pay backs” of helping those who have helped me.

This year my major commitment is chairing the San Diego Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held on Oct. 15 at the Convention Center and to which we hope the entire nonprofit community will attend.

This group had insights but they also wanted me to be sure to reinforce that out of volunteer commitments come the very best friendships.

I began volunteering in the 1950s and, at that time, with the exception of male service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, etc., in my opinion the majority of volunteers were female. These were the women who after family commitments had the time to help in the community. They were dedicated, responsible workers who generally volunteered in the mornings in educational, cultural and health organizations. The PTAs, museums, theaters, symphonies, libraries, hospitals, etc., could not have functioned if these volunteers had not done what are now, in many cases, paid positions.

There were, of course, a smattering of men but by in large my memories are of women.

These women were generally young women and in many cases the role of baby-sitting their younger children fell to their mothers, who had been volunteers before them. This situation lasted through the ’60s and then as women began entering the workplace in larger numbers that change was reflected on the volunteer screen as well.

Whereas women had done the majority of their volunteer work prior to age 50, now they were finding that with children grown and hopefully an easing of financial pressure they wanted to continue working in volunteer roles. In some cases they wanted to return after an early career and in other cases the increasing mobility of families placed them in a new community where they wished to give of themselves.

Increasingly, I see men who have retired in important volunteer roles – mentoring, volunteering in literacy programs and using their professional skills to assist where needed. I wish I saw even more of this.

I also see both men and women taking time from their paid positions to volunteer in our community and the good news is that I see their companies recognizing that this is important not only to them as individuals but to the community, which in turn is rewarding to the company.

This is the time of year when thoughts turn to “Back to School.” The PTAs, parents groups, alumni groups, Scouts and all those volunteers involved in “school activities,” are hard at work. I was reminiscing with my dear friend, Noreen Mulliken, about her involvement with the Francis Parker 85th Anniversary celebration. It was a terrific event that involved parents, grandparents and alumni. The alumni were volunteers in a continuing fashion parade during the evening. They were to model fashions in style when they were students at Francis Parker. During practices, there were near calls and one not near call of a tumble off the stage but what Noreen and I were discussing in particular was my involvement. I had attended Parker in 1950 before it went through the 12th grade. As a result, my outfit was 50 years old and as I stepped into the spotlight the glue on my 50-year-old shoes gave way and the shoes fell apart. They were quite wonderful plastic shoes with high heels. As a result, I had to traverse the remaining stage gathering parts of my rapidly falling apart footwear.

However, the fun memories and experiences and the friendships made and cemented therein are what makes this “career” such a special one.

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 Oct. 15, 2005 at the San Diego Convention Center. You can e-mail her at

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