Since I moved here to Va a little over 3 yrs I have wanted to do something to volunteer. I have participated in several of them that the lady I work for is part of and I have enjoyed it tremendously but I wanted to find something I myself could do apart from that.
Recently I received a e-mail from the church I attend that needed help with sneakers. That began what has become a fun part of my life. It is much more than about sneakers though. They also ship medical supplies, high protein soy products, teddy bears etc. I have found a home there in the world of volunteering.
A couple of good friends of mine here in the Rain that I know of are also involved in different volunteer activities. One of them is a strong advocate and voice for animals. Her name is Kristin Johnson Another friend who rescues animals is Toula Rosebrock. There is also my good friend Gary Woltal who posted a blog this morning of a run he did in TX for the American Heart Association. There are so many ways for us to give back. We are blessed in this country even with the struggles of this economy.
Volunteering has been a part of America’s civic culture since the early days of barn raisings and quilting bees. Neighbors have nearly always been willing to pitch in and help others in times of need. Helping others is not out of fashion. In fact, a new trend in volunteerism is sweeping America and you can be a part of it!
Consider Time, Interests, and Skills
When choosing a volunteer opportunity, consider the amount of time you have to volunteer, your interests, and your skills. Volunteering is a perfect way to enjoy an activity and contribute to a cause that you are passionate about. Think you have no talent or particular skill set? You probably have more talents than you realize, but don’t worry. There are many opportunities that simply require a caring heart and an able body.
Questions to consider when thinking about volunteering:
- How much time do you have to contribute?
- Do you want to do something on a regular or just an occasional basis?
- Do you have any particular skills or talents that you would like to share?
- What cause or population would you like to work with? A better environment, a neighborhood cleanup project, the elderly, young children, animals, teens, the homeless?
- Do you want the activity to include just you or your family as well?
- Do you prefer to volunteer as a team or by yourself?
Types of organizations that utilize volunteer services:
- Social Service Agencies
- Civic-minded Groups
- Cultural/Artistic Groups
- Health Care Organizations and Institutions
- Political Organizations
Family Volunteer Ideas
- Participate in organized charity runs or walks.
- Collect food for the food bank in your community.
- Visit the elderly at a local nursing home; adopt a grandparent.
- Baby-sit free on occasion for a harried single mom.
- Rake leaves, plant flowers, or shovel snow for an elderly or disabled neighbor.
- Walk dogs or cuddle kitties at the local animal shelter.
- Write letters for or read to a sight-impaired person.
How to Get Started
Ask Your Friends and Relatives
The least threatening way to find a volunteer opportunity is to ask your friends or relatives where they volunteer and go with them. Or, ask a friend to go with you when you find a place you think you’d like to volunteer. Walking into a new place alone can be intimidating. But just know that nonprofits want your help and will encourage and welcome you! Most will work to match your skills to their needs.
Check with those you know if they are aware of needs in the community and what agencies or churches head up the programs. Call them, introduce yourself, and ask if they have regular need of volunteers. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t strike gold immediately. It’s ok if you don’t feel like jumping at a particular opportunity right away. It’s important that you have an interest in what you’ll be doing.
1800Volunteer.org and VolunteerMatch.com
Another way to find a volunteer opportunity is to use either of these web sites. Both start with your zip code to provide you with local options. They also track your volunteer service and send e-mail notifications whenever your time and talent would be needed. If the thought of volunteering is daunting, these sites narrow down the possibilities for you so you can do a little research on the organization’s web site before you commit.
Simple Steps to Get Involved
Follow these steps and you'll be volunteering in no time!
- Visit the Search page and enter your ZIP code. Go to: http://www.volunteermatch.com
- Find a listing that interests you and click on its title for additional details. Next, click “I like this opportunity.”
Register as a VolunteerMatch.com member and an automatic email will be sent to the volunteer organization notifying them of your interest. They will contact you if there is an opening for volunteers.
Finding the Right Opportunity
Now that you understand how the service works, screen the opportunities that suit you best. Follow up promptly with the nonprofit after you've referred yourself to an opportunity.
- Choose a cause that you're passionate about.
- Find an opportunity that matches your skills, interests, and schedule.
- List your skills for the nonprofit for which you’d like to volunteer.
How to Be a Great Volunteer
Part of having a great volunteer experience relies on your ability to be a great volunteer. These basic principles are good to keep in mind:
- Be professional.
- Honor your volunteer commitments. Show up on time and call in when you are ill.
- Extend gratitude to an organization for any training or professional development you receive.
- Most of all have FUN!!!!