My First Volunteer Foray
My mother always volunteered. In a surreptitious move that I’ll have to remember for my own progeny, she brought me along. I watched her read to children in our city’s version of the projects. We volunteered together at a women’s shelter. Later she helped write resumes at my hometown’s Community Development Center, an organization strikingly similar to the one I worked with in D.C. called Streetwise Partners.
But she didn’t limit her time just to organizations. Her giving nature extended to her friends, family, and neighbors. If someone was sick, she made them soup. If someone was sad, she offered to cheer him or her up. Without even realizing it, I picked up on her willingness to give and it has proven to be a gift. It exposes me to people I would not ordinarily meet and provides me with a worldview that includes a broader horizon. And I find comfort in the ability to give to others.
Offering a Helping Hand
Recently, I started volunteering at Heywood Hospital in Gardner, Mass. The team of mostly 70-plus ladies welcomed me into their family immediately. Before I knew it I received invitations for tea and luncheons. Just last week I found myself emphatically insisting I help my new friends, Bev and Ellie, shop for our holiday fair basket.
They thanked me for my “gumption” but I enjoyed it just as much as they did. They helped me realize that some of the things that bothered me about my mother are also some of the things I miss most. Nosy questions: “Do you have a boyfriend? What does he do? Are you going to move?” Then the endless hemming and hawing over price tags on superfluous holiday items like stuffed snowmen. “$6.99?!!” I enjoyed every moment with my surrogate family.
Volunteering is one of the things that helps me cope with the loss of my mother the most. It allows me to turn my negative energy into inspiration for positive contribution. I encourage EVERYONE to volunteer. We share the burden of all social issues and it is our responsibility to contribute and respect the space we cohabitate.
10 Reasons to Volunteer
1. Meet new people.
2. Teach others.
3. Have fun.
4. Tackle a new challenge.
5. Develop new skills.
6. Inspire others. Be inspired.
7. Raise your awareness.
8. Build a strong community.
9. Help others reach their potential.
10. Make the world a better place.
How to Find Volunteering Opportunities
1. President Obama encourages all Americans to participate in our country’s recovery and renewal at Serve.gov, a site to help you find opportunities in your area
2. HandsOn Network is the largest volunteer network in the nation and includes more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 16 countries. Visit their site to find a project near you. (I also love their tweets! @handsonnetwork.)
3. For the kids: Generation On is a newly-created youth service organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes young people to take action and change the world.
4. Volunteer Match, a recruiting tool for more than 75,000 nonprofit organizations, is another great site to search for local projects.
5. Check with your hometown homepage. Generally there is a link to local events where help is needed!
6. Craigslist posts volunteer opportunities too!
If you volunteer, please tell us about your organization and contribution!