All across the country, ordinary people are serving their neighbors and communities by volunteering – and it’s making a big difference in the lives of many.
In 2010, 62.8 million adults volunteered nearly 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations, according to Volunteering in America. This service is valued at nearly $173 billion.
When you volunteer, your time and effort not only helps others, but can actually benefit you in tangible ways as well. Studies have shown that adults who volunteer one to two hours a week have greater functional ability and lower rates of depression.
Volunteer activities strengthen social connections, which protects people from a sense of isolation during hard times. In addition, helping others not only expands your own horizons, it can make you feel better about yourself.
What Can You Do?
There are many ways you can volunteer. Some of the most popular ways, according to Volunteering in America, include:
- Mentoring or tutoring youth.
- Helping raise money for an organization.
- Collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food.
- Providing general labor or transportation.
You can find volunteering opportunities through local churches, community centers, workplaces or schools. You can search online at sites such as www.volunteeringinamerica.gov and www.volunteermatch.org, as well.
There are also opportunities in some surprising places. ForestersTM, a life insurance provider committed to the well-being of families, gives members the opportunity to volunteer in their communities through partnerships with organizations such as KaBOOM!, helping to build playgrounds in some of North America’s toughest and poorest neighborhoods. Other key partnerships providing volunteer opportunities are with Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Radiothon program, raising funds to support 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Learn more at www.foresters.com/community.
Tips for Becoming a Volunteer
If you would like to volunteer but aren’t sure how to get started, here are some tips to consider:
- Go with your strengths. If you have specialized skills, such as teaching, cooking or sewing, look for places that could use those skills. Keep your own personality in mind, too. If you’re easily stressed or worn out by crowds, don’t offer to be the greeter at a big event or the emcee at a banquet.
- Think about your availability. There are different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities. Mentoring or tutoring requires a regular, rather intensive commitment, while serving at a charity race is a much shorter-term commitment.
- Volunteer with friends or family. Volunteering with others is a great way to strengthen your relationships and help others at the same time. Consider opportunities suitable for parents and children, a husband and wife, or even a small group of friends to take on together.