Why I volunteer: A chance to learn something new

James Cassara

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ Spring Nonprofit Issue, we asked residents to send in accounts of their volunteer work with local nonprofits. See all 12 responses in this week’s print edition. 

James Cassara is a volunteer at the YMCA of Western North Carolina, a nonprofit that aims  to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Xpress: When and why did you begin volunteering for YMCA? 

Cassara: Not long after I joined, which would have been 2010. I gifted myself with a three-month membership but soon found the community there was one in which I felt comfortable and engaged. The physical benefits were obvious, but I didn’t realize how meaningful the social connections would become.

What do you do at the nonprofit and what keeps you returning to the volunteer position? 

I serve on the Woodfin YMCA Advisory Board, a nonfiduciary position that acts as an ambassador for the members. Prior to workout class, I make announcements of upcoming events, including  hikes (I co-lead the Woodfin YMCA hiking group), new classes and schedules, the annual giving campaign and other things such as that. Since my career has been as an artist and art teacher, I’ve recently begun teaching a once-a-month art class at the Y. It’s been steadily gaining traction, and I really enjoy it.

What do you wish you’d known prior to starting? 

I’d previously volunteered with other organizations, as that’s always been part of my nature. What I didn’t realize was how far reaching the impact of the YMCA is and how many programs they offer beyond the standard classes and such. Diabetes management, grieving groups, healthy kids campaign, water safety, mental health resources, support for those dealing with chronic illness — I could go on and on. I’m truly amazed at the number of variety of programs members can take advantage of.

What do you tell folks who are interested in volunteering but have yet to commit?

That every group I have ever volunteered with has taught me something new about our community and about myself. Yes, it can be demanding, and I have to be careful to not overcommit, but the rewards really are worth it.


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