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Pursue Your Volunteer Passions

Perhaps it was serendipitous or fate that my wife, Pat, and I landed on Hilton Head Island and retired in a community that excels in volunteerism.

Story by Michael Marks + Photo by THEFRENCHGUY PHOTOGRAPHY

I have spent my entire working life of 43 years in the nonprofit world. I started in the health agency business and transitioned into the museum sector where I worked for more than 30 years. The final 12 years of my career were spent on Hilton Head Island at the Coastal Discovery Museum until I retired in 2014. During all of those working years, one aspect was always evident — the importance of volunteers in accomplishing the missions of those organizations.

Perhaps it was serendipitous or fate that my wife, Pat, and I landed on Hilton Head Island and retired in a community that excels in volunteerism. Based on my business experience, I can confidently state that Hilton Head, Bluffton and its surrounds have the most vibrant and active volunteer workforce I have ever encountered. It points to one of the many positives about being a local.

Since my retirement I, too, have become a volunteer (well come to think of it, I began volunteering before I retired), and my gosh, we here in the Lowcountry have so many choices and means to give back in terms of trust, treasury and service. Based upon the thousands of local residents who do so, it results in a community where we can all take pride.

Volunteer opportunities abound here in the Lowcountry, whether it be in health and human service, youth oriented programs, schools, civic endeavors, municipal boards and commissions, social justice or arts and culture. All of these groups make this community’s engine run. And, all of these groups need bodies, brains and funding.

One nonprofit that delves a bit into all of the above is Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. I became a member of the board of directors in 2015 and am currently privileged to serve as chair of the Foundation’s Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC). Working with PAAC has given me the chance to work with some pretty amazing locals and make new friendships.

Like many of you, I found that one volunteer endeavor is not enough. Since retiring, I have also worked on a 50th anniversary project for the Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island, I’m the most out-of-shape member of the Island’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and, being from Kentucky, I help out with the horses at the Coastal Discovery Museum. There are also times when I’m recruited to assist my wife with her volunteer duties for the Lean Ensemble Theater.

So if you want to add to your local credentials, find your volunteer passion(s) and pursue them. Community Foundation of the Lowcountry can help via its Lowcountry Volunteer Connections. Find it on the Community Foundation’s website at

And to all of those who are already in the volunteer force: You are part of what makes the Lowcountry a great place to live, work and play! You have earned your “local” merit badge.