Gaining While Giving: How You Can Make a Difference for Others (and Yourself) through Volunteering
“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April is National Volunteer Month and our Tropical Smoothie Cafes will be busy participating in several community fundraisers. Why are we so involved with our local schools and various causes? Because we love our community, want to make a difference and contribute to society in positive ways, and because, even though volunteering starts out as an action to benefit others, we ultimately get back so much more … every time.
Since the spotlight is on volunteers this month, it’s a great time to act on those feelings that occasionally pop up that urge you to get involved. If you have that nudge every so often but haven’t found the right reason or resource to help you get started, there are some enormous benefits to volunteering that we explore below:
Volunteering helps others:
- You don’t have to go far to find a person or place in need. People are hungry and unemployed, homes and yards need maintained, homeless animals need care while waiting for their forever home, elderly people need companionship, children need tutored, adults need mentored, diseases need cured, wildlife needs protected, parks need beautified and neighborhoods benefit from the security of neighborhood watch.
- Many organizations have been effected by the recession and have too limited staff to keep up with needs. Many shelters have had to lay off all employees and are completely staffed by volunteers. The world is a better place because of the kindness and service of people. And taking care of each other really gets to our core purpose in life.
- When one life touches another, that person carries on to touch countless others. If you’re affecting people in positive ways, your act of kindness has a ripple effect that ultimately could spread to thousands of people! You don’t think donating a jacket or helping set up tables and chairs at a charity event is making much of a difference? You never know how those acts impact others in ways that extend way beyond your initial effort. A simple drop of water when combined with other drops became the ocean. Small deeds can ultimately become big ones.
Volunteering helps YOU:
There are so many unexpected benefits, not just for the recipient and the community, but for the volunteer. Here are just a few …
- Volunteering boosts self-confidence. A sense of pride and accomplishment in knowing that you contribute to creating a healthy community. Volunteering will make you feel needed and valued. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
- Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate and less symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
- Volunteering combats depression. Volunteering keeps you from isolation, helps you stay social, build connections and give you a sense of community. It helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. You’ll meet a diverse range of people with common interests.
- Networking opportunities: The people you meet while volunteering could become life-long friends or resources for employment referrals or services that you might need later.
- Volunteering helps you learn or develop new skills. You have opportunities for problem-solving, critical thinking, hands-on work and your volunteer work can be added to your resume and help you in your career.
- Get a tax credit on your Federal return for volunteering: According to ServiceLeader.org, “Volunteers in the United States can receive tax deductions from the federal government on many costs associated with volunteering, such as mileage and other travel expenses, paper, copying, convention attendance fees, parking, uniforms (if the volunteer purchases his or her own), etc.”
- Set an example for your kids and create stronger bonds when you volunteer as a family.
- Volunteering with a group gives you the experience of being a part of a team with a common mission and camaraderie. You get to experience being a part of something much bigger than you and see how a group of people can effect change.
- Volunteering can quickly humble you, make you grateful for what you have and/or give you a different perspective on life and the potential labels and stereotypes of people who need help. Today, people with PhDs have found themselves turning to food banks to help feed their families. Everyone’s situation is different and by volunteering, we can learn more about them.
What Can I Do?
What skills do you have that you want to put to work?
- If you enjoy PowerPoint or audio/video, see if your church needs help on their tech team. If you’re good with a hammer or caulk, Habitat for Humanity might be a great match for you. Often we don’t get to use specific talents on the job and volunteering is a great way to do the things we love and are good at. Don’t think you have a valuable skill? If you think about the things that come easy to you that others have complimented you on, that’s probably a great place to start.
What do you love / are drawn to?
- If you love kids, you might consider being a mentor to a child through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or volunteering in your own child’s classroom or scouting troupe. If you enjoy hearing stories of the past, spend time at a nursing home through an adopt a grandparent program or help your own elderly neighbor with their yard work or grocery shopping. Love to bake? Do some baking to help raise money at bake sales (here’s a great resource for you – they need help now – Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale). Love animals? Volunteer at your local shelter or combine your love of animals and kids by getting involved with therapy animals that help kids achieve confidence. Want to spend more time in nature? Many wilderness areas need guides and help with trail maintenance. Have a family member who has Alzheimer’s or is a breast cancer survivor? Help out at walkathons and relays that raise money to fund research or help make life easier for those dealing with those diseases. Come help out at a couple of events that we’re sponsoring or participating in: TSC events.
Have you been helped by others?
- Most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. Maybe there was a time when the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner showed up at your door or a neighbor helped get you to medical appointments. Maybe when a tragedy hit your family, neighbors rallied around you and brought you food and planted flowers in your yard. Many of us are deeply connected to the type of help we’ve received ourselves and want to give back in a similar way. Deliver meals or find something that will “pay forward” the help you received. Sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up and the opportunity to serve will be there.
Where Can I Help?
Did you watch the TV series “Secret Millionaire?” Without knowing where they were going to spend a week, once there, they had to look for local volunteer opportunities and decide where they could help the most after getting to know the mission and needs of each organization. It didn’t take long for any of the secret millionaires to find a variety of charities, organizations or individuals that needed help.
- Look for posters on community bulletin boards at grocery stores or libraries.
- Ask around. Churches usually have a long list of needs in the community that they could use help with.
- Keep it tied to something that you’re already spending your time doing. If you’re kids are in scouts, help out with troupe activities. That way, you’re volunteering and spending time as a family. If you’re doing yard work, spend 20-30 minutes more to help your neighbor with their weeding.
- Go online and search for volunteer opportunities. Volunteer Match is a great place to start, plus, at the end of this article we’ve listed several more resources for your convenience. Also, while online look at Meetup for local volunteer and random acts of kindness groups.
- Do you have limited mobility but still have the desire to help? There are at-home volunteer opportunities where charities/causes need help making phone calls, coordinating calendars or stuffing mailers.
- ” Work long hours and can’t seem to get out to participate when volunteer events are happening? Volunteer by bringing people to you. If you own a spa or hair salon, consider offering help to the struggling unemployed to look their best for job interviews by volunteering your services for a day and giving them haircuts and manicures. If you own a thrift shop or clothing store, you could open up a corner of the store to help unemployed people find a free or low cost business suite for job hunting. If you don’t own a business but are great with resumes, you could offer to help people with updating their resumes. The opportunities to serve are limited only by our imaginations.
- Stop by our Tropical Smoothie location to see what’s coming up that we’re involved with or check out our newsletter events page.
As you can see, all you really need is the desire to make a difference. And in doing so, your good deeds end up helping yourself as much or more than others. And after all of that serving others, stop in to one of our Tropical Smoothie Café locations and let us serve you! “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank
Volunteer Match (Henderson): http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/index.jsp?l=Henderson%2C+NV%2C+USA
Volunteer Match (Las Vegas): http://www.volunteermatch.org/search?r=20.0&aff=&l=Las+Vegas%2C+NV%2C+USA&o=eventdate
City of Henderson: http://www.cityofhenderson.com/cultural_arts_tourism/volunteer_opportunities.php
You’d Be Perfect For This (Gulf Coast of FL) http://www.youdbeperfectforthis.org/
United Way of Southern Nevada http://www.volunteercentersn.org/
Hands On Network http://www.handsonnetwork.org/
Volunteer Hub: http://www.volunteerhub.com/
Also look online for opportunities to work with these national organizations: American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Make-A-Wish, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Sisters, American Red Cross, March of Dimes, Alzheimer’s Association, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.