Alison Brooks lives in nearby Mission Viejo. She works as an attorney and has been volunteering since she was a teenager. We got to know Alison while volunteering in Lake Forest and recently spoke with her to learn a little more about what inspires her to give of her most precious resource, her time.
What organizations do you volunteer for (or have volunteered for)?
I have volunteered at the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter for three years, have been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”) for two years, am a Camp Storer YMCA Camp “Boat Boy”, volunteer at Saddleback Church in various ways, have been a neighborhood volunteer for the National Cancer Society and participated in the Race for the Cure, and the MS Walk, I also have volunteered at the Orange County Superior Court as a Pro Tem Judge. I volunteered at my son’s schools, St. Johns and Santa Margarita Catholic High School. I also worked at a soup kitchen in Santa Ana. I additionally support Canine Companions for Independence.
How has volunteering enriched your life?
I have been blessed in many ways and believe it is important to give back and pay it forward. Being able to help others who have challenges or have not had as many positive experiences in life has opened my heart, provided me with a more open mind, made me more appreciative in general. I also tried to involve my son early on in many of my volunteer activities to help him see the joy in giving. We have enjoyed serving together.
What should others know about volunteering?
First and foremost it is a commitment. It is something that should not be taken lightly as others will depend on you to follow through. It should be done with an open heart and mind. It is time consuming and in our busy world at times can seem like one more thing added to one’s plate. However, the enrichment to one’s life is well worth the effort.
What do you do when you're not volunteering?
I am an attorney with Strickroth & Parker, LLP where I practice construction defect, product liability, HOA related and commercial matters.
How long have you lived in South Orange County and what do you love most about living here?
In 1987, I moved to Mission Viejo. There have been a lot of changes in and around the area, as Rancho Santa Margarita, Dove Canyon, Foothill Ranch and Ladera Ranch were developed. I can remember when there were no traffic signals on parts of El Toro Road. I love the beauty of the area, Saddleback Peak, Lake Mission Viejo and the activities that take place there, I love Saddleback Church and all the people I have met. I am appreciative of the safety of this area and how well maintained the city is. I also was impressed with the schools in the area.
What does "community" mean to you?
When I think of the term community it is in an expanded fashion. Certainly community means family and a group of people sharing ideas and energy, assisting each other in various ways, but it also has a farther reach with the advent of the Internet. Community now can include former classmates even though they live 3,000 miles away. Community also means a group of people sharing a common goal and working toward that goal using diversity, differing backgrounds and beliefs to achieve creative solutions.
What do you want to say to those thinking about how they can get involved in their community?
Be creative. If you have a concern, come up with a creative solution and raise it. Be observant and if you see a need step up and try to fill it. Exchange ideas with others and keep an open mind. Look for opportunities to get involved.
Share a brief story about volunteering.
Over the years I have worked with several kids who are wards of the court. Much of what takes place is confidential as they are juveniles. The majority of their lives involved pain and hardship, most not of their own making. It’s the simple things that they miss out on. Family outings, going to the zoo, Medieval Times or Disneyland are not part of their world. Most were lucky if a parent paid any attention to them, were present in their lives, or didn’t harm them physically. Spending time listening and sharing with these kids is important as you might be their only role model to a normal life. Having the kids you worked with invite you to their graduation after they were on the verge of dropping out of school or continuing to communicate with you after reaching adulthood is extremely rewarding.
What organizations do you know that have volunteer opportunities coming up?
CASA is always in need of volunteers as there are approximately 3,000 kids in need of this program. I first learned about the program during a presentation at the RSM Library. Call your local animal shelter, your civic center, Joy Jars, look up non-profits on Craigslist as a number of volunteer activities are listed. The Girl Scouts of Orange County offices are in Irvine on the edge of Lake Forest. Call and volunteer with the Boy Scouts in Fountain Valley. Call Saddleback Church or go on their website.
How have you benefited from someone else volunteering in your community?
We all have benefited from people helping others, whether it be a neighbor who has lent a hand, a chaperone at a school function, someone collecting clothes for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, sending shoes abroad to those less fortunate, helping build wells in Africa and other continents, or socializing a puppy who will someday help a paraplegic open doors and answer a phone. The community is you and it is me and it is anywhere in the world where there is a need. We all benefit by helping each other.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you by their generous gift of volunteering?
I know of a couple in their 70s in my neighborhood who have assisted building wells in Africa so women don’t have to carry water 6 miles a day. The wife also is a nurse who has helped treat HIV patients as a volunteer. That shows a lot of love and caring from the heart.
The Bell Tower Foundation is a Volunteer Connection Hub bringing people and organizations together through volunteer opportunities. It believes that volunteerism enriches the lives of everyone—those who give and receive. Connect with The Bell Tower Foundation on Facebook at facebook.com/TheBellTowerFoundation or on its website at belltowerfoundation.org