Why Is Volunteering Important?
Volunteering has many benefits such as feeling more socially connected, which keeps loneliness and depression away.
Studies have shown that adults over the age of 50 who volunteer regularly can reap the benefits of lower stress and lower blood pressure due to an increase in physical activity over a sedentary life.
Many non-profits rely on the help of volunteers because the organization operates partly on government funding and donations. Volunteers can work alongside staff to fulfill the mission of the organization.
My past volunteer experiences include church ministries, professional organizations, and non-profits.
How One Experience Showed Me The Importance Of Volunteering
One of the most fun experiences I had was when I spent four years as a volunteer with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). Their mission of promoting agriculture and supporting Texas youth and education requires many volunteers to make this happen each year. The opportunity for me to be a part of HLSR's mission had the biggest impact on my life.
Even as a office volunteer, I witnessed so many committee volunteers working tirelessly over the six months prior to the rodeo and then take two weeks off from work to volunteer very long hours during the event.
I must admit volunteering in the HLSR ticket office had the best perks. I was able to meet a few of the country music stars before their performance and also get their autograph. The only autograph I missed getting in person was George Strait's and I missed him by five minutes.
Driving to work after my college class ended, I decided at the last minute to stop and put gas in my car so I wouldn't have to do it later that night when I got off work. When I walked into the ticket office, my co-worker looked at me and said "Laura, you just missed George Strait! He was here in this office! He was so nice. He signed autographs and let us take pictures with him." I stood there dumbfounded and began to tear up. If I had not stopped for gas, I would have had my picture taken with King George! Ugh!
Fortunately, my sweet co-worker knew what a huge fan I was of George Strait and asked him to autograph his promo picture for me. Looking back on that magical day, I still regret stopping for gas but I'm so grateful to my co-worker's kindness for getting my autographed picture of King George.
My Current Volunteer Experience
A year after my teenage son's death from suicide, I decided I wanted to honor his memory in some way. Since we had adopted him at age 10 from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia, I wanted to do something to promote teen adoption in the United States. I had learned through our adoption process that children are less likely to get adopted the older they get. It still breaks my heart that this is happens.
One day an opportunity came up with THRU Project for me to become a mentor to foster teens aging out of our local foster care system. This organization bridges the gap between aging out of the foster care system and starting their new adult life. THRU Project helps provide resources for temporary housing, higher education, cell phones, bus passes, and other essential items needed to make the next chapter of their life a success.
I was matched with a lovely young woman, age 18, who I've enjoyed mentoring the past couple of years. I see a lot of drive and perseverance in her to be a success. She has chosen to not be a victim of her circumstances and wants to give back to her community where she grew up. I'm so proud to see how far she's come from when we first met.
7 Reasons Why Volunteering Creates Meaning And Purpose
If you are looking for more meaning and purpose in your life, volunteering in your area of interest is your answer.
You don't have to volunteer long-term. Even if you give your time in simple ways, you help those in need and improve your overall health and well-being.
1. You'll meet people you might not otherwise meet. Volunteering is a great way to meet and connect with others through a shared activity. Keep this in mind when you move to a new city, have to pick up the pieces after a divorce or the end of a relationship, upon retirement and have too much time on your hands, or especially those times when you feel lonely.
2. You'll improve your social and relationship skills. If you are shy or an introvert and have a hard time meeting new people, volunteering is a good way to get out of your comfort zone in small steps because you'll be around the same new people over time. You'll get more comfortable meeting new friends and making small talk because you have a common interest.
3. Volunteering can help you live longer. Studies show that people who volunteer have lower stress and lower blood pressure which can lead to a longer life span. Having deeper relationships increases your self-worth and empathy to care about others. Older adults who volunteer are more active mentally and physically than their peers who do not volunteer.
4. Volunteering creates a sense of purpose. Because volunteers give their time without compensation, they are more likely to help organizations that have a common mission or goal. For example, pet lovers are passionate to volunteer their time at rescue shelters or become foster pet owners. Being a volunteer makes a difference in others lives.
5. You can forget about your own problems. Focusing on helping others takes the focus off your own problems and puts them in perspective, especially when helping those less fortunate. It's like the saying "If we threw all our problems in a single pile and had to pull out the same number of problems, we'd end up taking our own problems back since they're not as bad as the others in the pile."
6. Volunteering lets you practice important common skills. Being a volunteer lets you practice important skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, organization, planning, and problem solving which can be used in your workplace, at your home, and in your community.
7. Being a volunteer brings fun and fulfillment to your life. Volunteering affords the opportunity to try new passions, hobbies, and careers without a long-term commitment. It provides you with renewed creativity, goals, and motivation that can carry over into your work and personal life. The personal networks created can lead to new opportunities for growth in your life.
How Does Volunteering Build Resilience?
Being a volunteer strengthens resilience by improving self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem from learning new skills, making new friendships, and making a difference in others lives.
When going through adversity, you can put your situation in perspective based on your volunteer experience and utilize the resources you learned about to discover new opportunities.
So what about you? Are you a volunteer? If so, do you agree with these seven reasons and have more to add?
If you are not a volunteer, why not? Volunteering doesn't require that much time and can be done with your existing activities. Organize a group at work to volunteer once a quarter in the community. If you have a family, find an organization in which the family can volunteer time once a month.
Even during COVID there are opportunities to volunteer you time making projects at home. My sister knits projects for Socks for Soldiers and Knitted Knockers for cancer patients. When I did a search on Google, one of the websites popped up was 12 Charities That Need Your Handmade Goods and Craft Supplies.
Volunteering opens so many doors to new opportunities and new relationships. You will be so glad you made a difference in someone's life as well as your own.
Daily Mantra: Hunt the good stuff, find the humor, keep positive, and focus on your blessings. God can bring good out of every situation!