Service Work and Volunteering is Sacred

by Lea Wetzel, Drop-in Center Coordinator

July 11, 2023

For most of my life, I didn’t put much time and effort into things unless it was self-fulfilling, of some sort. I always have had a big heart and loved to help feed, support, and be there in any way I could for family and loved ones, but past that, I didn’t do much that was out of my way of comfort, and added to my own status or towards a goal that was for my own selfish needs. As I grew older, I was taught that we do what we can for others, with boundaries. I wanted the acceptance of others and turned into a “Yes” person very early in recovery. I got sober in a program that believed in incentives. It taught me as an adult, that there was appreciation and meaning in going out of my comfort zone to help others.

In ceremony, we bring “gifts” that are normally things like food, blankets, tobacco, and other meaningful items for our “rituals” in our spirituality. Our Elders share that if there is something that needs to be done, you get up and do it, if someone can use a hand, we help. All that we do in this life, does not go unseen. Whether seen by those in the seen or unseen world, nothing is unseen, or unappreciated. I started volunteering in AA, and later, in committees, on boards, and on leadership councils about 6 months to a year in recovery. I was volunteering 20-30 hours a week at a local behavioral health center, when I was asked to take PS 101, and offered a full-time position. I helped develop American Indian programming there, and also, at a local drop-in center a few months later. Around this time, was when I started sharing my story to empower and hopefully help others, in their own journey. I was supporting and empowering others like me, some in the same program as I was in, and being an example for others in my community, and across the state. It felt good to watch people I was supporting and working with, now helping others, and moving up in a positive manner in their own lives.

I started developing community events, running groups, and sponsoring a few people as well. It wasn’t too long after, that I was asked to join my local human trafficking and MMIP task force, after doing an event that I partnered with local law enforcement in developing a now, annual, “Women’s Empowerment” event, where I live. I was offered a few independent contracts to offer peer groups, where I also took a leadership position on a couple of local boards. Before I knew it, all the volunteer hard work, dedication, natural skills, and many lessons, ended up giving me leverage in my own career path. There weren’t many American Indians in this state, doing the work I was doing, I found out, in a very humbling way.

I was honored with an Innovated Community Improvement Award, by the Montana Board of Crime Control. I couldn’t believe that the same state that I caused chaos in, was awarding me, and allowing me to speak and share my story. I still volunteer and do service work in multiple ways. I am a part of the Montana Dept. of Corrections, Victim Impact Panel, and volunteered in developing a strategic plan with the Montana Attorney General’s Office, Montana Dept. of Justice, and many other organizations and agencies across the state. I continue to share my story, and give my time, and was able to lead through this effort and be a voice for other survivors of violent crimes, and human trafficking. I may not always speak on these things, but my dad always told my brother and me, we allow others to talk on our behalf because our actions are enough. Hard work and passion, with a mindset of looking at obstacles as opportunities, through doing something because it’s the right thing to do, because all in all, all we do, doesn’t get unnoticed.

Service work and volunteering turned into what I love to do, for a living. Feeling unnoticed and unseen for years of working towards being a voice can be something that can be tiresome. But, with a mindset of gratitude for having the honor to be able to be a part of developing something that will and is empowering others, is well worth it. Being able to sit back and see others that we support, going on and becoming voices of empowerment themselves, is sacred. When we walk in a sacred and honorable way, that’s respectful of ourselves and others, should always have some type of service work, and volunteering at the heart of it all. Some of the most memorable and epic people in our history started making a change through service work and volunteering. It helps those we are supporting and gives us a meaning of life and purpose that can and will affect us for a lifetime, as long as we continue to have that mindset of being grateful. Just know, effort and hard work, never goes unseen, whether it’s noticed by the seen or unseen world. We walk in a sacred way when we put time and effort that is bigger than ourselves, is a walk that we ourselves, can impact many when it’s towards a positive cause.

It’s like my favorite quote states, by Billy Mills. Our gift is the present, and our gift back to Creator is what we make of the present.


Leave a Reply