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Energized volunteer refuses to allow obstacles to slow her joy for song

By Staff | Oct 29, 2014

Debby Dorr (center) volunteers with the popular Calendar Girls performance troupe. PHOTO PROVIDED

It seems that every corner turned in Sanibel, Debby Dorr is there; as founder and director of the Community Youth Chorus and founder in Sanibel of the Sing 4 Joy summer and afterschool children’s chorus program, at veteran ceremonies, before City Council with her troupe in purple camp shirts blasting away on kazoos, teaching piano, just about anywhere a musical note in Sanibel is sounded.

Dorr’s work with Sanibel children has been so instrumental that the city’s Recreation Department in August recognized her as their volunteer of the month.

What makes Dorr different from many volunteers is that she handles her business seated in a wheelchair. Dorr, 62, has used a chair for three years due to health issues. Yet the retired nurse and professional dancer won’t allow the device to slow her zest for outreaching to children, sharing her love of music, teaching piano, even working with the popular Calendar Girls performing group of Fort Myers.

“I keep popping up,” Dorr said of her volunteer work.

The Islander asked Dorr, who also skated with the Holiday on Ice venue in her native Minnesota, about her formula for success.

Dorr: I have always been involved in more that one thing at a time and being organized is the best way to handle it all. I believe in being of service and opportunities are constantly being presented to me. My focus is just to take care of whatever is in front of me and then move on to the next thing. My projects start out with a single focus, i.e. giving kids an opportunity to sing and they just seem to grow into other projects, i.e. having the chorus take a monthly birthday party into the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter. I have to believe in the cause and then opportunities just seem to open up to get the job done.

My family really didn’t do much formal volunteering, but I was raised in a neighborhood in Minnesota where all of the neighbors just naturally helped one another – it’s just what we did. So helping others just kind of comes naturally.

I think people are spending more time by themselves and socializing via the media. It’s easier to email, text, Tweet and converse on Facebook than to go out and join a group of friends or even get together over coffee. It’s easier to make a credit card contribution to a cause online, than it is to volunteer. What people don’t understand they are missing is the joy that one receives from volunteering. I try to get my chorus kids involved in singing out in the community (we do more than 50 concerts per year!) They experience firsthand the joy that they bring to the folks in the assisted living facilities. I hope to inspire them to help other people by exposing them to being of service and hope they will carry that with them into adulthood.

My greatest passion is music. It can be used to heal, to inspire, to comfort, to provide joy and happiness, to alleviate pain and to just keep kids out of trouble! God has given me the talent and ability to motivate and teach others to sing, dance and play instruments. By getting kids to sing, I see their self confidence grow and they become better students and discover they can do things they never thought they could do. They bring joy to others and it makes them feel good about themselves.

Volunteering can add so much to your life. Think about what you love to do and then think about a way that you can share that with people. There are so many organizations needing the gifts and abilities that you have. The joy that you will receive from giving will return to you tenfold.