How to Cultivate a Spirit of Service

Guest post by Scott Miller, Garden Spot Village

How to Cultivate A Spirit of ServiceGenerally speaking, retirement communities are desperate for volunteers. Overworked staff and lack of resources often leave administration with plenty of work to hand out to volunteers.

That’s not the case at Garden Spot Village, an active retirement community in the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“The acts of service that happen at Garden Spot Village are both large and small,” says Steve Lindsey, CEO. “The value of service manifests itself in countless ways, but it all starts with a value for people, for community and for relationships – and that,” he says, “is what makes our culture very special.”

An Intentional Change

While Garden Spot Village has managed to foster a spirit of service, it didn’t happen by accident. It started in 2001 when a major expansion to the community incurred unexpected costs. Determined to maintain transparency and address concerns, the staff looked for ways to increase accountability, and the idea of service came up in several meetings.

In 2002, the community refined its mission statement and values, and “service” was listed along with teamwork, excellence, stewardship and integrity as one of the core values that provide a framework for how the organization functions.

A Top-Down Movement

This addition was a primary step in creating a top-down movement to prioritize volunteering and service. Staff members set an example by volunteering around campus in activities beyond their scope of employment. It isn’t uncommon to see the CEO or board members step up and help out in different ways.

“Our goal is to create a sense of community where people can live lives that have meaning, purpose and value…, a community where we show love to one another in practical ways as an extension of who we are and what we believe,” says Lindsey.

The example of senior staff members didn’t take long to trickle down. Soon residents began using their gifts and talents to benefit others on campus in new and unique ways. Not to be limited to their own community, they began reaching out into the greater community, serving in the local schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations. Eventually this grew to the point that residents were making a difference in the lives of people they had never met, who lived in other parts of the country or around the world.

A Contagious Attitude

Almost fifteen years since the addition to the mission statement, the number of volunteer organizations within Garden Spot Village has skyrocketed. Anyone new to the Village can easily get involved in the community in one way or another.

Service cannot be coerced. Or at least, genuine, cheerful service cannot be forced. Residents and team members value meaningful relationships that are often formed through volunteering. As a result, service happens spontaneously.

“Service is just doing good things for other people,” Lindsey says. “It’s a value that can be easily learned, an attitude that can be adopted and a skill that can be honed by anyone.”

When an intentional effort to increase volunteering is supported by administration, it won’t be long before members of your organization embrace the movement and it becomes a natural part of your culture.

Scott Miller is the Chief Marketing Officer at Garden Spot Village, an active retirement community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Scott volunteers as part of the PA Dutch County Tourism Board, and in many other aspects of the campus and surrounding community.

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