Yolanda Austin, 62, is the mayor of Jennings, Missouri, and a volunteer with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. We recently asked Yolanda a few questions about her volunteer experience. This is what she said:
Alliance: When and how did you volunteer?
Yolanda: I have volunteered at the St. Louis Undy RunWalk since 2010. The first year I volunteered by walking with a few family members and friends. Each year afterward I brought 10 to 25 adults and teens who volunteered at the registration table, refreshment booth, on the course, keeping the area clean, and in the children's area. The teens are from the Top Teens of America, Inc. organization and the Jennings Senior High School National Honor Society. I have also spoken to various groups, set up informational tables at conferences, meetings, family reunions, church, and school events. I have sponsored several Dress in Blue Days for various offices I worked in.
Alliance: Why did you volunteer?
Yolanda: I started volunteering to fulfil a promise to my best friend who lost the battle of colon cancer in 2009 at the age of 42. I promised two months before she died that I would be an advocate to spread the word of early colon cancer screening and awareness.
Alliance: What was the volunteer experience like?
Yolanda: Meeting family members who have lost loved ones, caring for loved ones, and those with colon cancer was very rewarding for me to listen to them and share my experiences of the journey I walked with my girlfriend. Being a listener to them was often as good for me as it was for them to express their feelings. One of the greatest experiences was to attend the Colorectal Cancer Alliance National Conference, which gave me an opportunity to meet many across the country affected by colon cancer and gain knowledge of what resources are available.
Alliance: What did you learn about colorectal cancer from your experience?
Yolanda: I learned early screening is very important and sharing that with others is more important. I learned the more you listen to others and make them feel valued, along with showing patience, allows them to open up and want learn of the various resources available.
Alliance: Tell us what you do when you're not being a volunteer rockstar.
Yolanda: When I am not a volunteer rockstar I am a wife, mother to three, grandmother to three, co-owner to a non-profit organization that provides community resources, and the mayor of a city with approximately 15,000 residents. I am a 31-year retired special education teacher, special education supervisor, assistant principal, and principal of a middle school.
Alliance: Would you ever volunteer again?
Yolanda: I will continue to volunteer at the STL Undy, speak at engagements, and provide informational tables whenever called upon because there are many out there who still need to be encouraged, and this allows me to continue to fulfil my promise to my girlfriend.
Want to join Yolanda? Get involved.