• Gabriel Donio

Volunteers make a difference in town, every day


courtesy photo

It’s been my pleasure to meet and cover the good works of thousands of volunteers during the years.


They are among my favorite articles, editorials and columns.


Volunteers give of their time, knowledge and dollars freely because they want to make a positive impact.


Look around Hammonton and you will see many examples of their good works. Volunteers have made a significantly positive difference in the town. Civic clubs, sports organizations, churches, educational groups and more have all helped make that difference.


As always, it reminds me of the story of “Stone Soup.”


More than 25 years ago, I told the story in front of a meeting of the Lions Club, a club I have been a member of ever since, serving two years as president in the early 2000s.


I’ve told the “Stone Soup” story many times since that first occasion, including several times in this column space. I’ll give you the briefest version:


A soldier walks into a town that has been down for a long time. He asks for food and a place to sleep and is turned away. He walks into the town square, pulls out a stone and a pot, boils some water and drops the stone in the pot. When the curious townspeople ask him what he is doing, he says, “I am making Stone Soup.” He tastes it and says it would be better if it had some carrots. A person standing by says he has some and brings them, and they are added to the soup. The next thing you know, people bring out all sorts of food, and everyone eats together. The soldier is put in the finest bed in town. The next day he hands the stone to one of the townspeople. Then the soldier walks out of the town, finds another stone on the side of the road and walks toward the next town of hungry people.


The story has always symbolized the power of volunteerism and people working together on a common goal to me. How many local projects has The Gazette covered during that last 25 years that started with nothing more than one person’s idea?


Volunteers not only know how to come up with ideas, they know how to motivate others to share the idea and support it with their time, knowledge and dollars. There isn’t much that can stop a group of motivated volunteers, as we have seen many times in Hammonton.


Maybe it is time to honor volunteers and volunteerism in Hammonton. Veterans have Hammonton Veterans Memorial Park on Bellevue Avenue. As the fields, basketball courts and other recreational facilities on 11th Street are being revitalized and used more often it may be time for a unifying name for the area.


My suggestion? Volunteers Park.


What a tribute it would be to anyone and everyone who has donated their time to help make Hammonton the outstanding community it is today. None of them do it for the recognition—the volunteers of Hammonton are in it for all the right reasons.


It would be nice to recognize them in a significant way, with a large, tasteful sign that says “Volunteers Park” right at the entrance off of 11th Street.


Hammonton’s volunteers have made outstanding contributions to the town throughout its long history.


Volunteering brings out the best in people, and our volunteers have brought out the best in our town.



Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.