By Donna Mitchell-Moniak
“You gain a family,” Cynthia Najim said as we talked. With that, I realized that this is one aspect of volunteering that has not been adequately highlighted in these Volunteer of the Month stories! In our conversation, Cynthia was speaking of her concern for fellow members of the volunteer fire department. But her words made me think about the Friends of the Library, those involved with the Food Pantry, the many mask-makers during COVID-19 who were featured months ago, the San Antonio Church restoration and everyone involved, and more. I reflected on all the interviews that it’s been a pleasure to write and share with you readers. Volunteering also serves the volunteer! I know this firsthand, because I volunteer for this newspaper. There are many benefits: new friends, collaboration, the feeling of fulfillment, or maybe what started out to remedy boredom becomes much more. Being a volunteer opens doors, opens our hearts, and can pave a path to an open future (perhaps even professionally), with friendships or learning fun new things.
Cynthia took up residence in the Enchanted Circle in 2017 after working in diverse locations around the world. The big sky and the mountains offered a vista for quiet reflection and the inner space to freshly open her heart-mind to what might come next. The vinyl banner posted on Highway 522 at El Rito Road recruiting volunteers for the Latir Volunteer Fire Department got her attention. She was invited to a station clean-up event organized by the LVFD Auxiliary in October 2019, and decided that day to become a volunteer firefighter. Cynthia completed the Emergency Medical Responder course in December 2020 and is now a volunteer first responder as well.
“Stepping outside of one’s life to support others is refreshing. Nourishing, too,” Cynthia said. “And volunteering doesn’t have to be for a specific cause or organization. It can be helping a neighbor paint, garden, or clean. Anything to lighten one’s load. A smile can brighten someone’s day. In a way, that’s volunteering, too.”
Beyond being a volunteer, Cynthia has recruited, trained, and directed volunteers for large projects throughout her career. She understands what draws people to donate their time and skills, and channels that into assembling effective, cohesive teams. Her enthusiasm is contagious and inspires volunteers to give their best effort no matter how much work is involved. “When we achieve success as a group, everyone profits!” she exclaims.
She has been a writer and photographer for the Questa del Rio News for nearly two years now. Most notably, she informed readers on EMS and firefighting issues, events, and organizations, and wrote the Business Profile and Senior Living features. Sadly, she’s moving on. The June Business Profile was her final article for our newspaper. Thank you, Cynthia! The Questa News owes a big debt of gratitude to you for your dedicated coverage of community news.
When asked for any parting words, Cynthia shared, “Volunteering can broaden our perspectives and deepen our compassion by learning about the needs of others. To me, volunteering is like breathing. It’s something I will do until the end.”