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May 1, 201708:57 AMCity Beat

Volunteer of the Month, May 2017

May 1, 2017 - 08:57 AM
Volunteer of the Month, May 2017

UCP Volunteer Marisa Tokarsky

Tell the readers about your volunteering.
I volunteer for a few different organizations including United Way, Civitan, Junior Achievement and, most significantly, with one Program Partner of United Way – United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central PA. I first learned of and began my involvement with UCP in 2010 through Deloitte’s “Impact Day,” my company’s annual day of service, by volunteering at the UCP Adult Day Program Picnic at Adventure Park. I had a great time with the consumers and staff in attendance, and learned of UCP’s work supporting individuals with all types of disabilities, as well as their families. I was “hooked” from that moment on and began actively volunteering for UCP in various capacities – serving on event/fundraiser committees, supporting outreach efforts and providing assistance at family and consumer-focused activities and programs. In 2014, I joined the UCP Board of Directors, and in January of 2015, became the Chair of the Community Relations and Development Committee. I am honored to currently serve as the Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors and will assume the Chair position later this year. Upon completing my term as Board Chair, I will then transition to being the Chair of the UCP Foundation.

Why do you volunteer? What do you get out of it?
My younger brother, Michael, has Down Syndrome. Without a doubt, it’s because of organizations like UCP that enable him and other differently abled individuals to experience their own life without limits. UCP does a wonderful job of positively changing the lives of people with disabilities and their families. They set up individuals for success, not just for today, but for success in life down the road. Whether it’s through skills training, education, technologies or simple care and companionship, UCP completely transforms the quality of life of the people they serve on so many fronts. It’s a blessing to be able to watch and help UCP foster independence for their consumers at home, in the community and on the educational front.

Describe the feeling you get from volunteering.
I enjoy volunteering because it teaches me about compassion, collaboration, the individuals around me and about myself. It also allows me to contribute to and advocate for the causes that I care deeply about. My actions, whether big or small, enable me to positively impact the lives of others. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and serves as reminder to not just simply look after and provide for myself.

Of all the charitable organizations out there, what is it about UCP that compels you to volunteer?
Day in and day out, UCP staff members and volunteers are changing the lives of people of all ages with all kinds of disabilities throughout Central Pa. They continually go above and beyond in helping consumers believe and ultimately achieve their dreams. Just as important are the various services and types of support that UCP provides for families, which enables limitless opportunities to be provided to consumers.

What would you say to others to encourage them to volunteer at UCP, as well as any other charity in the area?
I know that this is a cliché, but you can make a difference. Take your life experiences – the good and the bad – and use them to find your passion, give back, and leave your mark. There are many ways that you can support those around you and in the community – visiting residents at a nursing home, making cards for children in the hospital, assembling personal care kits for the homeless, etc. Even these so-called “small tasks” can have a powerful and lasting impact.

If you had the power to instantly change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
I would like individuals to follow the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Unfortunately, in today’s society, many people overlook and do not apply this simple rule in their daily interactions. Everyone has “good and bad days,” and as a result, it is important that we treat one another with respect and compassion regardless of the circumstances at hand.

Where and with whom do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from my family, particularly from my brother (Michael) and our grandmother (Lillian) who battles rheumatoid arthritis. There are no limits to what Michael and “Tiger Lil” believe that they can do, and what my family and I believe they can. Just as important, there are no limits on the expectations as well. These values go hand-in-hand with UCP as the organization strives to ensure that each consumer experiences the joys and successes that life has to offer.

Alive or dead, name one person you’d like to have lunch with and why?
I would like to have lunch with my grandfather who passed away a few years ago. Throughout his life, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to supporting our family, as well as the others around him. “Big Mike” encouraged me to always “reach for the stars” and not be afraid to take risks in this motorcycle ride called life. He also reinforced the importance of providing a “helping hand” to those in need. I would trade anything to be able to thank him for the countless life lessons that he taught me.

Tell us about your fellow volunteers at UCP?
My fellow volunteers are extremely passionate and committed to the mission of UCP – promoting life without limits for people with disabilities. They continually strive to put the needs of our consumers first and demonstrate that all individuals should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of age, ability, etc. Many of the volunteers in our UCP family have been with the organization for years, and even decades in some instances. This is a testament to the amazing work that UCP does and helps position UCP to continue to serve members of the community for generations to come.

What is the single most important moment of charity you have ever been a part of or witnessed?
I cannot single out just one moment or one day, or even one event. Every time I interact with the consumers and their families through the various mediums that UCP offers, I am reminded of the blessing that these types of opportunities represented for my brother and our family. The smiles on faces of consumers and their family members are priceless.

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