In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 17-23, United Way of Northeast Florida is highlighting outstanding community volunteers dedicated to making a difference all year long.
For the past five years, Lauren Cephus has worn many hats as a volunteer for The Black Commission. In addition to seek funding sources, she plans the organization’s special projects and events. She did all of this while enduring weekly dialysis before she recently received a new kidney. Despite her medical issues and financial strains brought on by her inability to work, she continues to support her community through volunteerism.
Here’s what Lauren has to say about being a Northeast Florida Changemaker:
Describe the person or event that inspired you to give back to the community.
My early years inspired me to be part of change. I jokingly say that I have been a social worker since age 7. Maybe it’s my mother being available to the community and serving however necessary or my parochial school education. In 5th grade we were told about vocations and I decided I was going to be a nun. That was short lived because my mother told me we were not Catholic. Despite that fact, I still helped where I could.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect about volunteering?
Volunteering brings me joy and increases my energetic capacity. Meeting people and learning their stories and how I can best be of service is more of an honor for me.
Describe the moment you realized your volunteer efforts were making a real difference.
Seeing how group volunteering really creates change in the community is astounding. Immediate return on our efforts to help can be seen when people go from not having food to having food in minutes. Volunteering to get the vote out and seeing the results at the polls is a tremendous feeling. Helping people fill out forms for services, then learning they were approved is further proof that my efforts have not gone in vain.
Why is it important to you to help communities who are often overlooked?
It truly creates a downward cycle within the community. We are not just advocating for the lack of resources, we are fighting institutional racism as well. Policies are not for everyone’s benefit. The disparities are endless and statistics are the proof. Volunteering is a way to battle the oppressive realities on a micro, mezzo, and macro level.
What does it mean to you to “Amplify Good”?
Volunteerism effects not only the people we serve but also people on the sidelines watching the exchange. It is important to put the energy of service out into the ether. It is the energy of the intentional efforts that might encourage others to step out and help as well (formally known as leading by example). If my volunteerism encourages others to help, then I say let me lead!
Because change doesn’t happen alone, people like you are needed now more than ever to uplift the most vulnerable in our community. You can find a variety of community service projects at unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer.