Volunteering is what brought Nate Klein to Aflac, the Columbus, Ga.-based insurance company.
As a college student in his native Iowa, Klein participated in SIFE, an international non-profit organization that works with business leaders and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing business leadership skills. Aflac is a SIFE business partner.
When Klein participated in a national competition with his SIFE team, he stopped by the Aflac booth to check out job opportunities. He was hired in August 2007 for an Aflac leadership development program and is now a process innovation team supervisor, helping to improve Internet services for Aflac clients.
Klein, 25, has been an active volunteer since high school. “My folks instilled in me that you have to give back,” he said. Now, he devotes just about all of his free time to volunteering. He is on the Columbus United Way Advisory Board and initiated the Live United Youth Camp in 2009. He is also chair of The Literacy Alliance; not long after moving to Columbus, Klein initiated the alliance’s Columbus Heroes Read comic book giveaway program that enlisted police officers, firefighters, military personnel and emergency medical technicians in encouraging schoolchildren to read.
Klein spoke to Mother Nature Network about what volunteering means to him.
Why do you volunteer?
It just makes me feel good. You can see the impact on someone’s life and how you can help a community and make yourself a better person in the process. It’s given me a better understanding of what life is about. Before, I focused on myself and what I needed to do to advance my education or career. Through volunteering, I help other people achieve their goals.
What lessons have you learned from volunteer experiences?
I have learned the value of being patient and time management — the busiest people are the ones who get more done. Volunteering has forced me to be that way. I’ve learned about accepting thanks. People take so much joy in saying "thank you." By humbly refusing thanks, I was taking that joy away from them.
While volunteering for a project, have you identified other needs that you’ve met with a new project?
After starting the Literacy Alliance’s Columbus Heroes Read program to encourage children to read, I realized the students weren’t reading because they weren’t being read to. Now, the alliance is trying to engage parents in reading to their children from an early age. We are looking for funding for a parent-student reading party program where books will be distributed and families will be encouraged to start their own reading parties.
What is a special moment you recall from a volunteer activity?
About 18 months after Hurricane Katrina, on my first or second trip to New Orleans (while still in college), people came up to me and greeted me with the biggest smiles. It was the first time one woman had been back in her house. She started to cry.