What would we do without our senior volunteers? They help all manner of organizations run from Little League to church socials and the VFW.

Some folks are excited to finally retire from their jobs because it means they will have more time to devote to their favorite cause, whether that is visiting sick people in the hospital or knitting booties for newborns.

So I was thrilled to see a way to recognize those volunteers who make things run. (The word senior hardly seems appropriate since 65 is the new 55, and most people these days expect to be active into their 80s.)

But the search is on for South Carolina’s outstanding senior volunteer. The Salute to Senior Service program, sponsored by Home Instead Inc., honors the contributions of adults 65 and older who give at least 15 hours a month of volunteer service.

Nominations for outstanding senior volunteers will be accepted through March 31, and typical of this generation, the state winners will be decided by popular vote on the website. Online voting will take place April 15-30. From those state winners, a panel of senior care experts will pick the national Salute to Senior Service honoree.

Home Instead will donate $500 to each of the state winners’ favorite nonprofit organizations, and their stories will be posted on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame. In addition, $5,000 will be donated to the national winner’s nonprofit charity of choice.

Which all got me thinking about what makes an amazing volunteer. After talking with some folks, the same five qualities seem to come up over and over again.

The first is passion. You believe so much in the organization, that you feel like you can make a difference, in one life or in many. With passion, you can inspire others to take up your cause, or to think differently about a problem.

If you are passionate, it naturally leads to commitment, and a positive attitude. In fact, volunteering is one way to forget about your own problems and focus on those of others. When you have zest for what you are doing, you will do it wholeheartedly.

Two other great qualities of volunteers are dependability and punctuality. We all know that the Little League game has to start on time, and it can’t start without the coaches and umpires. Other people count on you, and even though you aren’t getting paid, it may be even more important to your organization that you show up, and on time.

So, if you know an amazing person with these wonderful qualities, you can submit a nomination form online, and yes, you can nominate yourself. After all, part of volunteerism is spreading the word. South Carolina, and particularly the Lowcountry, has many wonderful folks who donate thousands of hours to all kinds of organizations.

To see the contest’s offi- cial rules, visit Saluteto SeniorService.com. Completed nomination forms also can be mailed to Salute to Senior Service, P.O. Box 285, Bellevue, NE 68005.

For information about Salute to Senior Service or the Home Instead Senior Care network’s services, call 571-3000.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at sharvin@postandcourier.com or 937-5557.