How to be a Successful Volunteer

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By Heather Blazi, Vice Chair of Communications

So! One of our first major Junior League of San Antonio events of the new year took place this past weekend, our annual Volunteer Training. I have to say, this was one of my favorite events I have been to in my League career thus far.  We opened up with a video from Admiral McRaven (see it here) giving us 10 life lessons from a navy seal. I believe everyone should take 20 minutes to watch this video – it will be well worth it. I promise the 10 lessons will make sense once you watch the video.


Even if you’ve never been in navy seal training (which I am be willing to bet 99.9% of us have not), we have all experienced moments where these life lessons really hit home. Several Junior League of San Antonio board members shared a personal story that aligned with each of these lessons.

Katie Kuznair, one of our new members this year, was inspired by their stories. “I enjoyed hearing the personal stories of the board members relating to the 10 life lessons. It was nice to get a little insight on who they are as women and some of the things they have struggled with and overcome.”

In the video, Admiral McRaven talks about how one person can make an impact. Just one person. That’s what we are doing as members of the Junior League and leaders in our community. We are making an impact, each and every one of us. But, it helps to know how we are making an impact. Enter phase 2 of the training.

This part was pretty incredible. Four of our community partners- Prevent Blindness, Family Endeavors, Green Spaces Alliance, and Clarity Guidance- spoke to us about how the Junior League of San Antonio has made a positive impact on their program.  There was so much gratitude for what we do, it really shows you how important our work is within our community.

Holly Pirruccello, a 8-year active volunteering in an SA Works placement this year, said the Family Endeavors’ story meant a lot to her.

Holly said, “it was amazing listening to the beautiful lady from Fairweather Family Lodge speak about her past, the transformation she has undergone, and how grateful she is to the JLSA volunteers she met for their time and support while she was mending herself and her spirit.”

Hearing their stories just solidified my reasons for joining the Junior League. It was so phenomenal to hear what they had to say. Our volunteers are out there almost every day representing what we do. So it’s important for us to learn how to SUCCEED as a Volunteer too. Lorena Pena and Sarah Wannarka shared with us five steps to become a successful volunteer. These lessons are so important, I want to shout them from the rooftop, and share them with everyone I know. If you take nothing else away from this post, I hope you take these five tips seriously.

Every time we go out into the world, we represent the Junior League. Even more so when we volunteer with our community partners. So, here they are.

  1. ENERGY & PASSION – If you are scheduled to volunteer, make sure you show up on time and are full of life. You are there representing JLSA, and there is nothing worse than a Debbie Downer showing up… so lesson number one, “Fake it ’till you FEEL it.” not make it… FEEL it. We should all be just as passionate about Junior League events as we are about Starbucks or our fur-babies (two things I’m pretty passionate about). We do such amazing work, and we should all be super proud of what we do!
  2. FLEXIBILITY – This is a group of volunteers. We are all people. We all have lives outside of the Junior League. If a shift lead doesn’t show up, or you signed up for playing with kids and you end up painting at your shift, repeat after me… “it is not the end of the world.” Life will go on. If your shift lead didn’t show up, just let your Mentor know, or email and the SA Works team will make sure you get your credits. If you signed up for one thing and ended up doing another, it’s all ok! You helped a community partner with something they needed, and that is what we want to do. We want to help! So, take a deep breath, smile, and know that what you are doing is truly making a difference!
  3. INTEGRITY – You may be the only representative of the Junior League that someone knows or sees. If you are at a shift and you sit in a corner and look at your phone the whole time (that is another topic in itself) and don’t talk to anyone or take initiative, our community partners notice! We are there to be WITH them. Put your phones up, they will be there when your shift is done. Just remember, you may be the light in someone’s day! Make the most of it, and get to know some of the people we are helping… who knows what you will learn!
  4. RELIABILITY – This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you sign up for a shift, be there. If something major happens (this is not to be used as an excuse to “get out of something”) call the shift lead and let them know you can’t make it. Life happens, and everyone understands (see “Flexibility”). The thing to remember is there are lots of women out there looking for opportunities to volunteer. If you sign up for a shift and don’t show up, you are taking a spot away from someone else! And way more importantly, our community partners are relying on us to be there. Don’t let them down!
  5. EMPATHY & COMPASSION – Be mindful of where you are going. Some of the people you interact with may not be as blessed as we are. Don’t distract from the AWESOME work you are about to do. Don’t stand there and whisper with your friends in the corner, even if it’s about something totally unrelated, when people are vulnerable and self-conscious, they may think you are talking about them. We are there to represent the League and do some amazing work!

So, in summary…You are the Junior League of San Antonio! Embrace it! Love it! Shout it from the rooftop! The Junior League of San Antonio does some phenomenal work in our community, and each and every member can truly make an impact. Now go out into the world and remember our theme this year…