Giving Back Through Service, Why Volunteer?

April 8, 2022

In this blog post our very own Marian Robinson – Faculty Associate and Community Outreach Coordinator in PRTM and YDL – shares her experiences of volunteering. Marian’s words are heart felt, eye opening, and act as a rallying call for all of us to do more in our local communities. We thank her for sharing her story and we hope you appreciate this piece.

Marian’s story First, I would like you to consider this, if April is National Volunteer Month: do you limit your time to just once a month? Opportunities are at our fingertips all year round; you just need to look! Find a cause and change the world (or, at the very least, make a difference to those you care about!)

The COVID pandemic made me ponder a thought I had not visited in a while: why volunteering truly is at the heart of who I am? To answer this question, I would like to share what volunteering has brought to my life.

“Lending my spare time to a worthy cause”

As a single mother raising a young son alone, that had now begun his own friendships and hobbies, I started volunteering with a local cancer coalition – a cause close to my heart because of my experiences and an opportunity that helped me find my purpose. Lending my spare time to a worthy cause helped me discover resources that were available for people in communities needing assistance.

I had a job at the time, but money was still extremely tight. Not to mention, I was juggling being back in school and the mother to a now teenage son who required more nutrients. Between groceries, bills, and everything else it takes to survive, there just wasn’t enough money to go around.

“I found hope and a sense of joy in volunteering”

I eventually turned to my local SNAP office for help, but they informed me that I made $2.00 too much to qualify for any assistance. Can you believe that? $2.00! The only asset I had at the time was my car. Selling my car would have helped me to meet the criteria needed to receive food assistance but then I would have been without a car, and there was no way my son and I could have survived without transportation. I was discouraged, frustrated, and completely burnt out. Yet, the only place I found hope and sense of joy was in volunteering. Nevertheless, I kept my head down and continued to work in the community

“The rest is history!”

In the late 90’s, Clemson University faculty led the charge to begin community coalitions for cancer control and prevention. I secured a secretary position in the project to pursue my passion of working in community-based cancer work. My passion for work led to others seeing my dedication and commitment to the cause. That was nearly 27 years ago, and the rest is history!

Today, I am a Faculty Associate /Community Outreach Coordinator in PRTM/YDL. My adult son now volunteers with a youth mentoring program as well as a homeless coalition in Los Angeles CA. I spend much of my spare time these days volunteering at the local United Way Backpack Program, Farm to Table Food Insecurity Program, Susan Komen Breast Cancer programs and Camp Crest, just to name a few.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities Clemson University has afforded me to see volunteerism through such a wide lens”

I’m always encouraging young people to volunteer with local nonprofits. I want them to know the importance of giving back because you never know when the table’s going to turn. Many people think because you work, you don’t have time to volunteers as well. Perhaps this is true in some cases; however, speaking from personal experience, you can always find time to volunteer and help others.

Volunteering, even at a time when I needed help myself, is why I continue to give back. So much has been given to me. I’m grateful for the opportunities Clemson University has afforded me to see volunteerism through such a wide lens. It is now my mission to continue advocating for volunteerism so that others might be filled with hope and experience the joy of giving back the way I have.

Finally, I would like to thank you for taking time to read my story and leave you with this,

Good leadership and community spirit can turn the downside of social ills into classrooms of engagement and service. Volunteering can be inspirational to those of us determined to leave a situation better than when we found it.

Like What You’ve Read?

Marian is currently developing a Special Topics undergraduate course in Volunteerism that we hope will be available through our Youth Development Programming undergraduate course in 2023*. If you’d like learn more about the course, reach out to

Marian’s expertise in community-based research and volunteerism is just one example of the diverse content included in our online Master’s of Science degree in youth development leadership (36 credit hours, 12 courses, 2 years) and our Graduate Certificate in youth development leadership (15 credit hours, 5 courses). These programs are uniquely designed for professionals working in youth development settings. For more information, visit or email

Reading and References

*If accepted, books that will be used for upcoming Special Topics class on Volunteerism are: The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, and Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World