Autumn… falling leaves, bountiful harvests, a nip in the air, and a thankful heart. This is the time of year we see the world with softer eyes, clearly noticing those less fortunate than ourselves. As thanks for our own abundance, and persistently tugging at us like a toddler on his mother’s skirt, is our need to do something ‘good’ for someone or something. Do you volunteer? It is part of the human condition that we are drawn to helping one another. The Independent Sector reports, “according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63.4 million Americans, or 26.3 percent of the adult population, gave 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $173 billion in 2010.1 For the latest information, please see www.volunteeringinamerica.gov. “1
Wow! Imagine if the percentage was a mere 10 percent greater or included the youth of this country. That is incredible power from a renewable resource…with no negative effect to the environment!
The ROI (return on investment) from time volunteered is no longer an intangible. We not only reap the psychological or spiritual reward, but the physiological reward as well. For adults the Corporation of National and Community Service issued a report in May of 2007 that stated, “Volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease.” 2
Tweens (as my niece refers to herself!), or teens, are becoming a formidable volunteer force in this country due in part to the service-learning educational method. Studies show improved student performance in academic achievement, stronger social and personal skills, and civic involvement. One study followed students for 15 years following graduation from High School. Results showed that High School students involved in service-learning were, on average, civilly involved in their communities and voted more than students who did not participate in a service-learning program.
Great news for everyone! Not only does volunteering, or selfless service, improve your community, your world and your soul – but your mind, health and longevity as well! Wait…..did I say…selfless service. Now that is an oxymoron for most teens and some adults, but herein lie the beauty of volunteerism. As the former First Lady, Barbara Bush so eloquently put it, “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” I concur! Now get out there and volunteer for your own well being as well as the well being of others.
How To Volunteer
Instead of only allowing the philanthropic urge speak to us during the holiday season, let’s make it a year round commitment. There are many deserving charities in each corner of the world. Finding one that fits us is easier than ever before. You can start with these:
VolunteerMatch.org boasts having the largest online network of non-profits. They have an easy to use search function to help prospective volunteers find the organizational fit. There are even virtual volunteering options available for those not able to get out and about, but have internet access.
A government resource for prospective volunteers is the Corporation for National and Community Service website. This is one stop shopping for groups such as; AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and the Learn and Serve programs.
There are tremendous websites dedicated to helping kids find a volunteer organization. Inspiring sites such as KidsHealth.org supported by the Nemours Foundation, speak to the teen, not at them, explaining the benefits of volunteering.
Non-profits have compelling resources at their disposal on sites like Civic Reflection that force an earnest look at civic life by utilizing Literature as its catalyst. If you belong to an organization this is definitely worth a peek!
Ready?… Set?… Make a difference!
Other articles to boost your feel good quotient:
1 http://new.independentsector.org/volunteer_time 2 http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/newsroom/releases_detail.asp?tbl_pr_id=687