Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How I Volunteer and How You Can, Too

Last week was National Volunteer Week. (They have a week for everything, don’t they?) To all the volunteers out there, doing whatever it is you do, I thank you. Whether you are building things, serving things, filing things, listening, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, sewing, healing, coaching, calling… whatever you do, thank you.

I’m not really sure when I got started with volunteer work. Perhaps it was when I was a big kid volunteering in the Sunday school room with the little kids. Then in middle school, I spent my summers volunteering as a teacher’s assistant in the preschool class of the daycare center I had grown up attending.

As a kid, I’m pretty sure I was doing these things because my parents made me. I guess that was a good move on their part, because as an adult, I still seek ways to contribute.

When I first moved to New Jersey, I spent some time with Habitat for Humanity in Trenton, helping in their office and writing stories for their newsletter.

For the past few years, I helped create a community garden—watering, weeding, harvesting, preparing beds in Spring, and clearing beds in Fall.

At a spiritual center for sacred activism, I led free workshops about increasing personal happiness and using collage for self-discovery. I also provided Reiki treatments in exchange for donations to the center.

Currently, I am volunteering with my local Hospice. When I first reached out to them, I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to offer because I’m not a nurse. But I reached out anyway, and I’m glad I did. My role is called “Friendly Patient Visitor.” I love that.

Twice per month I visit a patient in her family’s home. We sit, we talk, we watch TV. No special skills required (aside from the free training provided by Hospice, to learn the rules and practices). I also spend a couple hours per month in the office assembling packets that the nurses take with them during patient visits.

My point in sharing all of this is that we all have something to offer. Don’t worry about whether or not you have the right skills. If there is something you are interested in or feel strongly about, make a call or send an email to an organization working in that area. If you can use a copier or a stapler, you can help. There are so many places that can use an extra set of hands (or eyes or ears).

If you’re looking for ways to do good, read How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - at No Cost! It’s full of ideas for all types of skills, and all types of commitment level. Some don’t even require leaving the house.

Go. Volunteer however you are able. Your time, your money, your skills, and your support are all valuable to someone.

Thank you!

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