“As Teddy Roosevelt said, `Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,’” quoted retired educator Carlton Hardy. He wasn’t only referring to his career as an elementary teacher, principal, and Education Specialist for the Army. For Hardy, it is 40 years of volunteering in support of the arts in Virginia’s Hampton Roads that has made some of the most interesting connections and forged the most positive change. Here are five ways volunteerism has inspired Carlton, and might just make you want to join a committee in your community.
When you volunteer, you roll up your sleeves and work next to people of all cultures. Relationships develop, and understanding grows.
“I’ve had the chance to meet lots of different people,” said Hardy. “Volunteering in the arts has afforded me these opportunities.”
While serving on the Board of the Newsome House Foundation, he helped support the establishment and growth of the Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center in the East End of Newport News.
“Mr. Newsome was the first Black lawyer to argue before the Virginia Supreme Court. His home was given to the city, and I have had the chance to meet many leaders there—great people I’ve really enjoyed meeting and getting to know.”
Since his personal passions are art and music, his volunteerism is geared to support those disciplines.
“These bring people together of all walks of life. We come together and speak the same language because we have the same passion.”
2. Unexpected Connections
When you get involved in one initiative, other opportunities for growth present themselves. Through his work with a choir director at a local church, Hardy got involved in cultural revitalization projects in the neighboring city of Hampton. By helping with the installation of an art center in the downtown area, he ended up on a board for a child development center in the city.
“This is typical of the arts—you never know where it’s going to go,” he said.
3. Full Immersion in a New Passion
Volunteerism is a chance to spend time doing things you’ve always loved, but never had the time or ability to devote to them. There are plenty of tasks necessary to support the arts, even if you can’t draw a straight line or sing a single note.
“My personal passion is music, even though I can’t carry a tune in a two-handled bucket,” joked Hardy. “Neither of my parents were big art people, but my mother loved music. She listened to college choruses on TV, and she sang in the car. Music has been such a huge influence on my life.”
When he taught fifth grade, he used music to teach art.
“I would teach history using music of that time,” he explained. “The students would then draw pictures to depict the scene. Combining music, history, and art makes powerful connections.”
Music has motivated him to serve on the Boards of the Virginia Choral Society, the Three Rivers Men’s Chorus, the Richmond Men’s Chorus, and the Hampton Roads Men’s Chorus.
“I can do the development and grunt work for these organizations that others don’t enjoy,” Hardy said, referring to his confessed lack of singing ability. “My biggest threat to the other board members is to join the chorus!”
4. Excitement and Creativity Are Contagious
Being around people who are so excited about a project that they will do it for free does nothing less than nurture the soul. It’s difficult not to go home happy from endeavors such as these.
“I’ve been surrounded by people for whom music is an avocation, not a vocation. They all come together based on the love of music, and that’s powerful,” Hardy said.
This is the exact power that allowed his service to branch out into the visual arts. His work on the board of the Peninsula Fine Arts Center further encouraged his passion.
“The arts are something that I have to have. They impact us in so many ways,” he said. “Volunteering helped me know this.”
5. Volunteering Can Make an Enormous Difference
Hardy has used his writing ability to promote funding for the arts for years by publishing articles in local papers and magazines. When he decided that the arts in Virginia needed revenue from a license plate like state colleges had, he lobbied for legislation from the General Assembly. Hardy is now the “Father” of the Virginians for the Arts license plate. With over a million dollars in revenue, the license plate fund has both promoted the arts and supported them during times of budget shortfalls.
Additionally, Hardy has co-sponsored the Fraley-Hardy award for the Christopher Newport University Music Department. Through this award, students receive recognition for outstanding volunteer work and additional support for their work in the arts after graduation.
Do you see something in your community that needs changing? Volunteer to focus your skills on that area. Your abilities—regardless of what they are—will make a difference. To sum up his own volunteerism, Carlton Hardy refers to an Edward Everett Hale quote:
“`I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.’”