Volunteer of the Month
Jim Hamlin, Master of CeremoniesBy Jasmine Touton
When Jim Hamlin fell victim to a major stroke in April 2000, he’d never been in a hospital before, except when he was born.
“While I was recovering I was around all sorts of people,” says Hamlin. The time spent in the hospital combined with the people and children he met along the way helped drive Hamlin to start volunteering with Believe In Tomorrow.
Hamlin meets six families a week, a number that multiplied to become hundreds of critically ill children and their families on beach respite in the eight years since he began his work as a dedicated volunteer.
The 67-year-old Exxon retiree first connected with Believe In Tomorrow through his wife, who worked as a Quilter By The Sea. The Quilters By the Sea, based in Ocean Pines, Md., make quilts to go into welcome baskets for every child who enters one of Believe In Tomorrow’s oceanfront properties: The Believe In Tomorrow House By The Sea, The Believe In Tomorrow House on the Bay, and the Believe In Tomorrow House on Fenwick Island.
A Believe In Tomorrow staff member came by to thank the group one day and asked if anyone knew someone looking to volunteer. Hamlin’s wife knew the perfect candidate; a recovering retiree who just became mobile from his stroke and began driving again.
Today, Hamlin will drive almost anywhere for Believe In Tomorrow. His main duty as a volunteer is coordinating the weekly barbeque party on the deck of the Children’s House By the Sea, held as a chance for families staying at the beach respites to meet one another and share experiences. Hamlin begins every Monday with grocery shopping and pickups from local vendors who generously donate bagels, potato, and macaroni salads. After a day full of pickups, he returns to the kitchen at the Believe In Tomorrow House By The Sea to put away and prepare food for the following day’s barbeque.
Barbeque preparation is just one in a grab bag of tasks Hamlin digs his hands into. Says Hamlin: “It doesn’t matter what I do. I’ve washed windows, I’ve scrubbed floors, I’ve painted. I do whatever is asked of me within my capabilities.”
Hamlin’s work reaches from getting businesses to take out ads in program booklets for the Gala By the Sea to selling over $16,000 worth of 50/50 raffle tickets – with his wife and another couple – at the annual Beach Bash party in September. In June, Hamlin will work the Spring golf tournament, also a fundraiser for Believe In Tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“I’m there almost every day, not quite,” says Hamlin of the 241 hours of service he’s contributed to the organization.
No stranger to volunteering, Hamlin was once head of the Volunteer Involvement Program at Exxon. Employees and retirees can participate and earn 501(c)3 non-profit organizations a yearly sum. Hamlin gets Exxon to donate $2000 to Believe In Tomorrow and the Children’s House By The Sea every year.
What has kept Hamlin volunteering for so many years and working tirelessly to fundraise in support of the cause?
“The families are so wonderful, they appreciate everything we do,” says Hamlin. “Families tell me: ‘We had such a wonderful time just to forget about the doctors and the needles.’ And, mostly, it’s for the parents.”
Look for Jim Hamlin at the next Ocean City event, barbeque, or around the Believe In Tomorrow House By the Sea. He’ll probably be there pitching in, even if he wasn’t invited.