His Biggest Paycheck Ever!

To say Ray Aguilar likes to volunteer is a bit of an understatement. A list of all the organizations he volunteers with would run to nearly two dozen. You have to wonder how he finds time to work. Or eat. Or sleep.

Aguilar works for Classic Chevrolet in Sugar Land and volunteers for what seems like every other organization in Fort Bend County. For example, he's a regular volunteer at the Richmond State Supported Living Center (RSSLC), one of 13 residential facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities operated by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Most recently, he served as stage manager for the center's annual music fest.

Aguilar learned about serving others from his father.

"I always wondered why he would get up and volunteer at the church every Sunday," he said. "I thought it was another job. I asked him once, 'You've been here all day; how big is your paycheck?' And he said 'It's the biggest I ever got.'"

When he pressed him about his pay, his dad crouched down and drew a 0 in the dirt.

"As time went on I started to understand," he said. "He always had a smile on his face. And my mom always had a smile. My 6 sisters and 1 brother all volunteered at the church and they were always smiling." Those smiles came from serving others.

"My dad would tell me, 'If you think only of yourself, you'll always be by yourself.'"

Aguilar is 1 of millions of Americans who volunteer their time. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2013 more than 62 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours. The estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $173 billion.

Shannan Stavinoha, community relations director at RSSLC, not only coordinates more than 400 volunteers at the center but is also a volunteer herself.

Volunteers are vital to the center's mission. In 2015, 310 volunteers there gave nearly 9,000 hours of time, which was valued at more than $200,000. Volunteers also help get the community engaged. Their word of mouth is a better recruiting tool than any social media or advertising, she said.

"One cool thing about volunteers is that they lend their expertise to your enterprise," she said. "Whether it's reading or sewing or music therapy or wrapping presents, they bring that level of expertise to the table.

"They also tend to hang out with like-minded people, and when they're engaged and excited about your mission they're going to tell their friends. That creates a ripple effect, and brings even more volunteers.

"Somebody who's willing to give you their time, to give up something else to help you — that person is invaluable," she said.

Stavinoha confirms the rewards of volunteering. "It's a great opportunity to have fellowship with other like-minded people, working toward the same goal," she said. "And I get a lot of personal satisfaction from helping others be successful," she said. "Whether it's a person or a group, it's really rewarding. And it's cheaper than therapy."

Posted by Shannan Stavinoha on 2/16/2016 1:26:10 PM

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