Governor's visit to Laurel will help promote volunteering

By Tony E. Windsor

Many are viewing an upcoming visit to Laurel by Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell as not only a great opportunity for Delaware's chief elected official to see the positive efforts ongoing at the local Boys & Girls Club, but even more importantly, an opportunity to promote volunteer service.

As excitement and preparation mix, organizers of the kick-off event on Friday, Jan. 11, are working closely with Laurel town officials and Boys & Girls Club staff to make the event fulfill a statewide goal of promoting grass roots efforts in support of service to others. The Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club at Laurel will be the destination for the Markells, as they kick-off the official "Governor's Week of Service," Jan. 11-21. The Laurel Boys & Girls Club has been chosen as a site for volunteers to support with clean-up and renovation efforts during the special week long community project.

The Governor and First Lady will be participating in the Laurel project and are expected to address volunteers during a lunch break on Jan. 11, when they will officially announce the kick-off of the volunteer week. The "Governor's Week of Service" originated four years ago when Markell was first elected governor. He designated a weekend of volunteer service in lieu of the traditional Inaugural Ball.

One area man who is no stranger to networking and bringing the private, public, governmental business and faith-based sectors together for non-profit service views the Governor's visit as a huge platform to "energize and encourage" the community to support service organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs.

John Hollis, who is a representative of Nemours Health and Prevention Services, as well as a legislative lobbyist in Dover, heard about the Markells visit to Laurel to promote volunteerism and the Laurel Boys & Girls Club and wasted no time in offering his support. On Friday, Jan. 4, Hollis joined event organizers from the Governor's Office, the State Office of Volunteerism, Boys & Girls Clubs and the Town of Laurel, in a roundtable discussion.

For Hollis the Laurel Boys & Girls Club project holds a special significance. It was 15 years ago that he spearheaded a campaign to raise the necessary funds to build the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford. "I recall that many people proposed that we find an old warehouse and renovate it for use as a Boys & Girls Club facility," he said. "But, we were able to energize the community and subsequently transformed a 14-acre soybean field in Seaford where we built a new Boys & Girls Club."

Recently, Hollis met with senior management of Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware and Chris Couch, executive director of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club, to discuss opportunities to revitalize the two buildings that house the Seaford and Laurel Boys & Girls Club operations.

"I learned from a dear friend of mine, Dr. Ben Carson, that when there is an intervention by a higher power, we should be prepared to act on it.

When I heard about the efforts underway to promote volunteerism and the Laurel Boys & Girls Club, I had no doubt that this was intervention by a higher power and I needed to act on it," he said. Hollis said the current effort to revitalize the two western Sussex Boys & Girls Club sites and Governor Markell's plans to kick-off the week of volunteer service are a "perfect marriage."

Hollis said he has spent time contacting members of area education, government, faith-based, business and service sectors to form an ad hoc committee he calls "E2." Pronounced "E-square," the committee is leading a charge to "energize and encourage" volunteerism and development in youth and the community.

Like First Lady Carla Markell has demonstrated with her support for Boys & Girls Clubs statewide, Hollis feels that developing opportunities for youth is paramount. "If we are not investing in young people, we are spinning our wheels," he said. "The visit by the Governor and First Lady is an outstanding catalyst for bringing energy to this initiative. But, if we are not committed to energizing locally, it will be a temporary energy."

Hollis said the response from area businesses who have agreed to serve on the ad hoc committee has been extremely positive. He anticipates holding an E2 committee meeting at the Laurel Boys & Girls Club on Friday morning just prior to the address by the Governor and First Lady, where he expects 20 to 25 representatives of area businesses, education, faith-based, government and service sectors to be in attendance. "These are wonderful, good-hearted people who care about their community," he said. "They want to support youth initiatives and having them involved in this project is exciting."

The Markells will use the Jan. 11th event at the Laurel Boys & Girls Club to mark the official kick-off of his weeklong commitment to volunteer service. "The best way to say thank you to the people of Delaware for the privilege of being their governor for a second term is to give back to our communities and neighbors, and to urge others to do the same." Gov. Markell said. "Carla and I believe strongly in the power of people to make a difference. To us, it doesn't matter how much time or money you give. What matters is taking the step to make this a better Delaware for everyone."

For more information about supporting the event at the Laurel Boys & Girls Club with Gov. Markell and First Lady Carla Markell, as well as the entire "Governor's Week of Service," visit www.volunteerdelaware.org. The website will share information about the specific needs that are being selected to be addressed with volunteer projects at the Laurel Boys & Girls Club, and how to participate. For those who are unable to volunteer, there is also a list of supplies that are needed to support the work at the club.

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