Brown Owl Blending in (camouflage) with Brown Tree

Hidden In Plain Sight

Nicole R. Smith
4 min readMar 22, 2023

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 21st — April 27th. Volunteers are EVERYWHERE, yet often unseen. I challenge you to be on the lookout for volunteers this month, and when you spot one, show them a little love.

There are of course the obvious ones whose generosity stands out such as those who run the single mom or children’s ministry at your church, help feed the homeless or build homes.

But what about the ones, you don’t “see.” Those who sit with preemies in the NICU, counsel children who lost a parent to death, or those who help young women escape the world of sex-trafficking. What about the ones who tend to injured animals and help nurture them back to health or work with students in a fun way to learn about finances in a pretend city created just for them, or get up before the crack of dawn to walk and mentor those who need a second chance. Even moreso, what about that friend helping to plan your wedding or even the usher at the performing arts center who guides you to your seat (yes even they can be volunteers) or even interns?

Volunteers are everywhere, sometimes they don’t even consider themselves volunteers such as the person who helped to watch your little one in a pinch, the person who helped the little old lady cross the street or even the Board Member giving of their time to help an organization have impact on it’s community.

Most people who volunteer, formally or informally, don’t do it for the recognition, they do it simply becuase it is the right thing to do; a way to give back because they understand that as we give of ourselves it strenghthens our communities.

From the person handing out water at your stair climb fundraiser to the person handing out your packet pick up at 5:30am on the morning of your 5k race, to the person leading the sign-laguage class at your church. Thank them for what they do and how they make our community great!

“How do I thank a volunteer?” you may ask. Often a simple and sincere “Thank You” can go a long way. For those of you who encounter volunteers on a more regular basis, there are service pins, the presiden’s award, appreciation dinners, small gifts, cards and of course 101 Affirmations for Volunteers, 101 Affirmations for Non-Profit Board Members or Words of Wisdom for the Young Professional.

Affirmation Journals

Don’t let a tight budget dampen your efforts! There are many creative and/or low cost ways to make this celebration meaningful. Actually my affirmation journal for volunteers was sparked by the need to get something low cost to my volunteers during COVID. You never know where or when inspiration can strike! Get a group together and make a video, or sign a group e-card and have it delivered to volunteer inboxes, perhaps a drive thru appreciation event is in order, or quite simply inviting the CEO to speak to your volunteers at the next Zoom Volunteer Gathering. Perhaps a phone call with a verbal and special thank you directly from you as the leader of volunteers, or a team of callers to reach out to the team to say Thank You. Maybe a cooking class, cocktail making class or even bingo……all either in person or virtual!

Have you considered leadership? Leadership as recognition has a low cost but high value. Showing your most loyal and trusted volunteers that you trust them to lead others in your organization could be, dare I say, one of the highest honors and forms of recognition. Here are a few ideas:

Volunteer Advisory Teams

Volunteer to Volunteer Peer Mentors

Legacy Volunteers

Volunteer Trainers

Group Leaders

Volunteering makes the world a better place both for those who engage in the act of volunteering as well those who are the recipients of the volunteers thoughtfulness. This volunteer appreciation month, let’s make sure they know they are “seen” “heard” and APPRECIATED!

Nicole (@nicolersmithnet) is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, dancer, motivational speaker and published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Affirmations Journal Series. She attended Oral Roberts University on a Division I full-ride track scholarship. After graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization. Her experience in sports and entertainment, radio, TV and the performing arts has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston and Miami markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000. She received the Emerging Leaders ALIVE Impact Award, was listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You” , and was selected as one of Legacy Miami’s MOST PROMINENT AND INFLUENTIAL BLACK WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OF 2019. She sits on the Board of the Association of Leaders In Volunteer Management and Ageless Chic Magazine.



Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.