Daniel Martin’ 16 is building his career and volunteer skills. What he’s learned helps us find our niche and carve time to make a difference.
By Annie Renaud ’19
When Superstorm Sandy hit New York City and Long Island in 2012, Daniel Martin ’16 rushed to help clear debris and start the rebuilding effort. Several of his classmates and their families were impacted by the hurricane.
“These families have to live their lives. They can’t put everything on hold to fix their home. They need to work, get their kids to school and put food on the table,” said Martin. “It really opened my eyes to how much the relief effort helped families get back to normal and how appreciative they were of our efforts.”
Martin dedicated much of his free time during his college years to serving others. He helped by building and painting homes for those affected by natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, through Livingston CARES, a nonprofit organization created by students, faculty, staff and community members to make a difference after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Martin spent three college breaks in Biloxi, Miss., working on home rehabilitation and volunteering at a shelter and food pantry.
Now, Martin is an account analyst for Nestlé in Washington, D.C. Despite working 50 to 60 hours a week, he continues to volunteer in his community and where there’s a need.
Martin co-led a Livingston CARES trip to Puerto Rico in 2017 with Geneseo staff and students to clear debris from homes after the hurricane. He returns to Puerto Rico in May.
His reward is knowing he’s making a difference, and the people he meets.
“I believe it is our job to help each other and make each other’s days just a bit better in the small ways that we can,” says Martin. “I believe in being a community-builder, and my community gives back to me every day.”
Q. How do you balance a career and your volunteering?
A. It can be tough, but I value volunteering. I made it a priority and I found something I loved.
Q. Has anyone you helped changed how you think about things?
A. In Biloxi, there was a man I spoke to in the shelter who was homeless by choice. What made him happy was going about his life and going about his day. He worked here and there and liked flexibility. It made me realize that I need to have an open mind and remember that everyone is different. Not everyone wants a three-bedroom house and a 9-to-5 job.
Q. How can people get started volunteering?
A. Reach out to fellow college alumni in your area or bring friends or family the first time you volunteer. Instead of going out to brunch, go to a food bank for a couple of hours. It’s fun and social and it gives you a good feeling inside — and it helps the people in your community.
Q. Why are these experiences special for you?
A. I’ve always believed that we’re all in this together, so if I can do something to improve someone’s life, to make their day better and lessen their hardship, it gives me joy. I know that even small things can mean the world to someone else.
Q. What are the best lessons you’ve learned while volunteering?
A. It’s easy to understand the importance of building a house or raising a lot of money for a cause. Those are great. But smaller gestures can mean a lot to people. Having a conversation with someone, buying them a coffee or cleaning a dog bowl at the animal shelter will not go unappreciated.
Q. How can people find a cause that “fits” them?
A. Look at what’s most in need and find something you enjoy. Volunteering is a two-way street. You need to like what you do to continue and address needs.
Q. How do you organize your time so you dedicate enough time to your career, personal life and volunteering?
A. Balancing work, social, volunteer and personal time can be a challenge. When I lived in Des Moines, Ia., I volunteered at the animal shelter every Tuesday evening. I built that two-hour shift into my weekly routine. It helped me to go regularly because it was scheduled.
Q. Many of your volunteer efforts have been assisting families in different regions of the country and in Puerto Rico, living with other volunteers and immersing yourself in a new community. What is that like?
A. The rewards are immense. You get to hear others people’s stories — how they got to where they are and where they came from. I’m always inspired by them, whether volunteers or community members. I have had so many new experiences because of volunteering. I have stood in the beautiful El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico, and attended a church service in San Juan. I’m so thankful for these memories and I have learned so much. I want to pass on what I learn to others.
Volunteering has always been a priority for Daniel Martin ’16, who has helped rebuild homes with Livingston CARES in Biloxi, Miss., and Puerto Rico, and prepped pups for adoption when he lived in Iowa.