Volunteering to Help Others (and Yourself)

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Volunteering to Help Others (and Yourself)

Most people seek volunteer opportunities to give back to their communities and to help improve the lives of others. Whether it is through educational, health, or recreational sectors, volunteering can create powerful changes in society.

One unexpected benefit of volunteer service is that volunteering can actually help the person doing the service. In fact, the Mayo Clinic Health System states that volunteering can decrease the risk of depression. This health benefit especially applies to people over the age of 65, as volunteer work increases the capacity for social interaction and meeting people with similar interests.

Volunteering also helps people remain physically active and experience better mental health. Whether a volunteer job includes creating healthy food boxes or cleaning up a local park, chances are that the job involves a lot of moving around. Mayo Clinic has also found that volunteers typically have better physical health than people who don’t volunteer.  Volunteers also feel more satisfied with their lives after giving back to others.

The pandemic has created plenty of possibilities for volunteers who are looking for opportunities to help their communities. Some resources for finding consistent volunteer roles include:

  • Meals on Wheels – This organization delivers meals to people who are often isolated and unable to cook their own meals. If you have a spare hour during the week, you can sign up to deliver meals in your area. This opportunity is a great way to make sure your community has access to nutritious meals, and also gives you the chance to meet many people.
  • AmeriCorps – AmeriCorps is a federal program that places members with non-profits around the country. AmeriCorps receive a small living stipend to cover their basic needs while carrying out their service. The length of programs varies, with some projects being as short as a summer and others lasting approximately one year. AmeriCorps members have worked on forestry projects, in rural and urban schools, day care centers, food banks, and many other locations.
  • VolunteerMatch – Volunteer Match is a database that connects volunteers with organizations seeking assistance. Volunteers can search by location and see listings of opportunities in that area. Job descriptions vary depending on the specific group but some examples include lawn maintenance work for child care centers, Girl Scouts mentors, and environmental protection workers.

If you have a constantly changing schedule or don’t wish to make a commitment to a specific organization, you can always find volunteer opportunities on your own. Keep an eye out for people in your neighborhood who might need an extra hand these days. Do you have an elderly neighbor who might need assistance with getting groceries? Maybe there is a single parent that is struggling with childcare that would appreciate an offer to baby-sit for an afternoon.

Take advantage of the extra time you have in your schedule, and find a way to help someone who might be going through a hard time. You just might find that you end up better off yourself.

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