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Friday, April 1, 2016

Volunteering.


I am a volunteer! Have been all my life.  I used to volunteer for things that I didn't like, but that was before I learned how much volunteers need to believe in and enjoy what they volunteer for.



A few years ago I decided to volunteer for the things I liked, the things I believed in.  In the past communities worked together to help each other, to get things done, to hold events and gatherings so that everyone could participate.  Somewhere along the line that changed. Our society in America started becoming lazy, with a "what about me" attitude.  That elderly neighbor who's lawn needed mowed?  Only if they pay you, right?  Or the fundraising event that you are going to? The people who put it on probably are getting paid (wrong).  If the quality went downhill, it certainly wasn't my fault that there weren't enough volunteers to help.  I was busy, right?  I mean, I work, I earn money.  And if I don't work? Well, volunteering is for the old folks, the ones who are retired. Maybe you have kids and you feel like you shouldn't be expected to help out, you're busy.  I never had this attitude, because I like to help people.  I like knowing that I can do something for others.  That my contribution counts for something.  

What's the key to volunteering? Here's what works for me.  Find something you like and believe in, maybe something that affected you when you were a kid.  Do you really like dogs?  Or cats? Find a shelter to help out at.  You can be a "foster" for an animal that needs some social skills.  I could do that, but my husband wisely won't let me (he know's I'd never let them go-not to mention we already have 3 dogs).  Maybe you really like mountain biking or running? I bet that there are others in your community who are out there creating and maintaining trails or putting on fund raising events to help others learn about the sport.  Don't volunteer because you are guilted into it.  Well, it's okay to do that once or twice, because maybe they really need help.  Volunteer because you do get something out of it. I don't mean something material (though if they want to feed me while I'm there, that's always a plus).  I mean something that makes you feel special, happy and valued.  Because trust me, you are.


Another thing: Don't be afraid to say "sorry, I can't help with that right now." You do have a life separate from your volunteer time. And if you feel overwhelmed by the requests for help, speak to the person in charge.  Burned out volunteers are not a good thing. Do you have friends who complain that their kids spend too much time in front of screens (TV, Computer and Phone)?  Encourage them to take the kids with them and volunteer somewhere. What a great family activity, plus you're teaching your children how important it is to be a part of their community. 

Don't know where to start?  How do you find out if a project, group, event, etc that you are interested in needs volunteers?  Call or send an e-mail, drop by with a plate of cookies and ask. It's that simple.  Some organizations have gone so long with the same crew of volunteers that often times there is a feeling of resentment when "newbies" join.  Don't let that discourage you, and if it continues, talk to them.  Or make your own volunteer job. Do you notice that there is always trash on the roadside when you drive home?  Grab a trash bag, put on a bright colored shirt or coat and pick it up.  Do you like helping senior citizens, or visiting with them?  I bet there is a senior home close by with someone who doesn't have family.


Volunteering and being a part of your community is important.  Too many people have the "it's not my responsibility" attitude.  If each of us spent 1 hour a week volunteering, a lot of great things would happen. You can gain important skills for future employment, meet people and get new friends and change things.




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