Jimmy Rollins joined Action Teams from across the country in a recent teleconference to answer questions and share stories and insights about volunteering and community service.
01/26/2011 4:18 PM ET
Rollins chats with Action Teams
Phillies shortstop encourages captains to help those in need
By Colin Ainsworth / MLBPLAYERS.com
The Phillies' All-Star shortstop spoke with Action Team captains from West Deptford (N.J.) High School and other schools about his own volunteering experiences and the lessons he learned by getting involved in his community.
"When I was 16, I volunteered in nearby West Oakland (Calif.). West Oakland at the time was not a great place to be, with lots of drugs and weeds everywhere on the streets. I volunteered to help clean up the area block by block. We cut down the weeds and cleaned up the streets. We wanted to lift the neighborhood's spirits the best we could."
The monthly teleconference, hosted by baseball announcer George Grande, is a feature of the Action Team national youth volunteer program, which was founded in 2003 by the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Volunteers of America to inspire the next generation of volunteers. The Action Team connects high school students with Major League players to promote community service.
More than 26,000 Action Team student volunteers in 150-plus high schools nationwide have helped improve the lives of more than 111,000 people in need since the program's inception.
Rollins told the high school students that "seeing a need and being blessed with talent" inspired him to become active. "I asked myself, 'What can I do to make a difference and put a smile on someone's face?'"
The West Deptford Action Team fashioned a similar program to help in their Southern New Jersey community. In December, they hosted Operation Blessing, organizing a food and clothing drive for the needy during the cold winter months. The drive sparked a positive competition among the students gathering the much-needed supplies.
The discussion of Operation Blessing dovetailed with Rollins' message that anyone can help out.
West Deptford High School's advisor praised the students for organizing their own events and their effective use of social media to mobilize their student body to aid their community. The underlying theme was that no project was too small.
When students asked about the need to be a professional athlete or celebrity to effectively volunteer, Rollins quickly squashed the sentiment.
"You just need the willingness to help. To have an impact on someone's life, you need a smile and an open heart," Rollins said.
Rollins also called on the students to keep broadening their outreach efforts. "It's easy and natural to help people who you know," he said. "The challenge is to help those who you don't know."
Action Team captains from Thornton Academy of Maine inquired if Rollins could have imagined a life without volunteering. Rollins replied, "Yes, it would be selfish. I would have regretted it. I would have been a self-centered, greedy person.
"I have come to understand the impact of being there. Off-days are usually for a teammate's charity event. Small acts like just giving a kid a hug really helps," Rollins said.
Like many Action Teams, West Deptford continues to serve its community and is already planning an event for May. Rollins left all of the students on the conference call with some parting advice:
"What you do is what people remember. People are going to look for that testimony. You're a leader even when someone may not be looking, and you are your biggest promoter."
For more information on the Action Team program, please visit www.VolunteersofAmerica.org/actionteam or send an e-mail inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.