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A legacy of giving

Diamond-resized.jpg(Originally published in the December 2017 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

For 60 years the National Notary Association has been dedicated to serving and supporting Notaries, as well as creating a community of Notaries dedicated to helping the public through volunteering and charitable efforts.

“American Notaries have always been very special,” said NNA Chairman Milt Valera, now in his 48th year at the Association. “And they responded over the years to our call to offer society more than the important services they provide as impartial witnesses.”

The NNA’s community development efforts began with the creation of our member publications to inform, inspire and generate meaningful conversations. Soon after, we launched our annual Conference — the only regular national meeting for Notaries in the U.S. — and combined it with nationally recognized awards programs to honor Notaries, government officials and corporate leaders for giving back to their communities.

In 1997, the National Notary Foundation became an important philanthropic arm of the NNA, and again the community of American Notaries responded with their support for scholarships, aid to sufferers in the 9-11 terrorist attack, assistance to victims of natural disasters such as Katrina, the hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico and the earthquake in Mexico City in 2017. Over the years, the NNA brought together respected and influential experts to help train, guide and inspire our community. 

“We spent a lot of time and effort to create an environment of service, expertise, community and giving back,” Valera said. Notaries en masse began sharing their charitable activities with the growing national community, which inspired other Notaries to adopt “giving back” as one of their own core values. Today, kind, compassionate, charitably minded Notaries are everywhere, giving their time and energy to the less fortunate. Whether they provide no-cost notarizations to the needy or elderly, volunteer at homeless shelters or churches, or provide financial support to charities or relief campaigns, Notaries are making a difference. Some have even created their own benevolent campaigns to support individual children or people facing challenging situations, or to fill a gap where no charitable program exists.

As we wrap up the NNA’s 60th Anniversary celebration, we recognize the extraordinary legacy of Notaries who continue to lift up people and make their communities a better place. “The NNA would not be what it is today without the strong national community that continues to grow,” Valera said.

The act of giving back

Florida Notary Tami Kowalkowsky is one of the countless Notaries who have built this legacy of giving through her community involvement and advocacy. She noticed that several street lights had become damaged or defective in her town of Land ‘O Lakes, causing a public safety concern. Instead of complaining to city officials, she took action. She created a “Street Light Event” in which she teamed with several neighborhood watch groups to survey the city and ensure all street lights were working.

“We do this once a month and I believe it is an important step to keeping our communities safe.” But her benevolence doesn’t stop there. She also serves veterans as a “Soldier’s Angel.” “I assist with honor guards to provide veterans with dignified burials,” she said. “This is very close to my heart, as my husband served 20 years in the Air Force.”

Kowalkowsky’s efforts mirror those of so many in the Notary community whose volunteer and benevolent activity are second nature. They are motivated to perform acts of kindness that emanate from the heart — from a desire to serve the greater good. Countless Notaries take their role as a public servant so seriously that their efforts evolve to the next level. They lift people’s spirits who lack support and resources. They set time aside to listen to seniors and veterans who feel alone, and just need a friend to talk to. Some also provide a warm plate of food and shelter for someone who’s lost their way.

We conducted an online survey to learn more about the type of philanthropic work Notaries participate in, and 86 percent of those surveyed said they do take part in volunteer activities in their communities. And the overwhelming majority of those said they are motivated by a desire to give back to their communities. Clearly, for many Notaries, holding a commission is more than just a job. Rather, it’s an extension of their natural inclination to give back. So they keep renewing their commissions as a way to help and be there for others. In fact, nearly six out of 10 Notaries in our survey said they offer notarizations at no cost for those in need.


A helping hand for seniors 

One of the more common ways Notaries give back is by helping seniors, usually through making regular visits to senior centers and churches. In fact, 19 percent of our survey respondents said they help at local senior centers and nursing homes. A big reason, said California Notary Simon Wong, is because those living at nursing homes or hospices don’t get to interact with people much. Simon, who is originally from the United Kingdom, visits seniors often simply to have conversations and provide them company. He also offers no-cost Notary services at three different senior centers on the first, second, and third Tuesdays of the month. He gives back to his community as a thank you for all the support he has received. 

“I find it very rewarding,” says Wong, who was a government reporter for a local newspaper and a real estate agent before becoming a Notary. “Many people are thankful this service exists.”

Bertha Rodriguez, also a California Notary, volunteers once a week at a senior center. “Seniors are often taken advantage of and I feel at this point in their life they shouldn't pay for Notary services, instead they can use that money for food,” she said.

Seniors aren’t the only beneficiaries of the generosity of the Notary community. Over the years, the NNA has come across countless stories of Notaries giving their time, money and energy to help orphans and other disadvantaged children, victims of natural disasters, the homeless, the seriously ill, veterans and so many more.

Benefits of volunteering

Notaries committed to volunteerism don’t do it for the praise or recognition. Yet, many end up being rewarded for their compassion in the long run without realizing it. Many Notaries find that the more time they invest in helping others, the more people in their communities see them as a trusted neighbor. This builds their credibility as a professional Notary. Rita Collins, a Florida Notary Signing Agent, said volunteering helps build on established relationships within the community. “This is a chance to network and educate the community that I’m much more than a Notary,” she said. “I can also educate people about the things a Notary can do.”

She is not alone. Thirty percent of Notaries who completed our survey said participating in community service has helped their business through referrals, networking and increased business exposure.

“I volunteer for hospice clients in my town, and the hospice hires me as a Notary for administrative work in their office,” says Laura Biewer, owner of At Your Service Mobile Notary in Modesto, California. “I am also on the board of directors for a senior advocacy organization, and that office refers clients to me.”

Informing those you volunteer with that you are a Notary benefits your business greatly. Not only are these individuals remembering the work that you do, but it also allows them to refer you to others. James Garcia, a Notary Signing Agent from Homestead, Florida, sees great value in volunteering his Notary services. He offers pro-bono work for church members, military personnel, police officers, firemen and EMTs. “They always tell me how much they appreciate me,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not about the money. I love my job.” Garcia has received many referrals simply by helping others, but that’s not why he does it. “I believe you should always give without expecting anything in return,” he said.

Helping those in need is not about the accolades or the business and career benefits. Rather, it’s about recognizing that simple acts of charity — such as offering a free notarization, visiting a senior in a hospice or teaching children in foster care how to cook — can make a huge difference in people’s lives. That generosity can’t be measured. But it is why the NNA has been so proud of the Notary community for the past six decades, and why we will continue to celebrate their selfless efforts.

Related Articles:

Notaries dedicated to serving their communities

The National Notary Foundation: 20 years of giving

View All: NNA News


Add your comment

Tami L Kowalkowsky

27 Dec 2017

A huge and many thanks to The National Notary Association for featuring me, Tami L Kowalkowsky in their magazine. "A Legacy of Giving"; December 2017 edition. I recently received a second copy of the National Notary Association's magazine. With a smile, I thought that they were sending me my renewal package. I opened the envelope to find that the National Notary Association had sent me a 2nd. magazine with a nice letter attached stating that I was featured in their December 2017 issue!! I am very grateful and humbled to find this article you wrote was about my contributions to my community and Veterans. It was so nice that everyone who participated was mentioned. Sincerest thanks and best wishes for 2018! Tami Kowalkowsky - Owner Tampa Bay Guides L.L.C. Certified Mobile Notary /Certified Signing Agent CNSA NNA Wedding Officiant Call/Text 813-751-5325 Email: Facebook (coming in 2018) @TampaBayGuides

Andrew Hoo

28 Dec 2017

Great article! I would like this to be a yearly end of year article highlighting Notary philanthropic achievements.

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