The Heroism of Volunteering

December 18, 2012

The common thread running through every MPTF volunteer group I ever meet up with is “don’t thank us, we should thank you, because we get so much more out of volunteering than you can ever appreciate.” And so it was a week ago last Sunday when I saw down for a really enjoyable breakfast on the Wasserman campus with 67 of our MPTF community volunteers as well as our community social services team. What a crowd! From industry members participating in our home safety modification program to pool buddies, friendly shoppers to volunteer drivers, phone companions to retirement community organizers, each and every one of them shared their own narrative on what they did in the industry and how they came about to volunteer at MPTF. This is what makes the entertainment industry such a fabulous and compassionate community and what distinguishes MPTF from most other charities: our ability to enrich the lives of our community by connecting those who need with those who can give of their time and energy. We see it all the time and we hear about it at breakfasts like last Sundays. Our social workers put two random industry members together for support and they immediately find a bond that ties them together in extraordinary ways.

Sean Bresnahan, a SAG-AFTRA MPTF community volunteer as a Friendly Visitor, is so much more than that to 92-year old Trudy Soss from Local 174. In many ways, he’s one of her lifelines and a cure for potential social isolation. To our delight, Sean brought Trudy with him on Sunday, wanting to share the breakfast and his volunteer award with her just as they share so many other things. Two other industry members indicated that at one point in their professional careers they had been recipients of financial assistance from MPTF and were volunteering to pay it back by paying it forward. Dee Baker spoke about his pool buddy industry member Marilyn who was wheelchair bound when they first started out working with each other and who now is able to get in and out of the pool without assistance. The stories go on and on and each one reminds you that the heroism of volunteering isn’t in big, dramatic actions but rather in filling in the gaps in the lives of others with simple gestures requiring nothing more (or less) than a little time and a lot of love.

All of this comes back to the one thing that I’ve learned since joining MPTF as CEO now almost 3 years ago. “Taking care of our own” isn’t about a relationship between MPTF as giver and the industry as takers, but about a community of extraordinary industry members brought together by MPTF to take care of each other. MPTF is there to identify needs, create programs, provide resources and structure, and facilitate, but where would we be without the time and energy and generosity of spirit of our industry volunteers? For those of you who are campus or community volunteers for MPTF and are reading this blog, hurrah for you! And for those of you who are touched or inspired by these stories, you know where to find us.

About Bob Beitcher

Bob Beitcher is the President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has been a senior executive in the entertainment industry for 30 years, having held leadership roles at Jim Henson Productions, Paramount Pictures, Panavision and MacAndrews & Forbes Media Group. Bob has been an MPTF board member since 2007. He became interim CEO in 2010 and was named permanent CEO in 2011.

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