Spotlight on Volunteerism
By Office of Communication
Posted on April 03, 2012, April 03, 2012

When it comes to volunteer work, Lauren Tatum believes you get a pretty solid return on your investment.

Since the mid-1990s, the longtime Arlington resident, who teaches social studies and language arts at The Oakridge School, has donated hundreds of hours of her time, energy and leadership to a number of community organizations, including The Junior League of Arlington and the Arlington Holiday Lights Parade.

"I think the surprise ending of what I got from Junior League and other organizations is the strong basis of friendships formed with other volunteers and with people who work at the community organizations I've supported," said Tatum. "I enjoy working on the administrative and organizational side of volunteer projects, but the relationships you build can really make or break a volunteer experience."

"Take my experience on the parade committee," she went on. "I walked in not knowing anyone, just wanting to help out. And now I call those people friends."

Tatum's volunteer journey launched in the early years of her career, when the TCU grad got involved with the alumni chapter of her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, coordinating evening activities for young alumni.

In 2000, she joined The Junior League of Arlington (JLA), one of the city's oldest community groups and the local affiliate of an international women's volunteer organization. During her ten-year stint with the league, she volunteered as a "wish granter" for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, worked in leadership positions on a number of internal committees, and chaired the JLA's Back to School Fair, a school supply roundup benefiting disadvantaged children.

In 2004, she joined the planning committee of the Arlington Holiday Lights Parade, a volunteer post she would hold until 2011.

Tatum's latest volunteer project is BeBetterU, an Arlington non-profit organization that pairs young people with service-based learning projects. According to the group's website, Be Better U programs "instill a lifelong value of volunteerism in children while promoting real-world career knowledge, self-esteem, enriched learning and teamwork through philanthropy and service projects benefiting the community."

Tatum hopes to increase Oakridge's involvement with Be Better U and other organizations, an effort that blends "both my passions of volunteering and teaching."

"I'm working to get the younger kids more involved with philanthropy, to teach them that community service isn't something you do to satisfy our school's graduation requirements, but a way of life," she explained. "I want to infiltrate our lower school with volunteerism."

"Volunteering has really paid me back tenfold what I put into it," she added. "Besides helping other people, it's helped me build a solid network of friends that I'll always have."

By Rhonda Aghamalian

Spotlight on Volunteerism

Community, News