Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Southwest Ohio

Volunteering in Your Community
It's the Best Way to Make a Difference

Most healthier communities have one thing in common — active, vibrant volunteers working to preserve or improve community living standards. Volunteers are quite often the most influential factor when it comes to building and sustaining better communities. When there is a need unmet by local government, volunteers are frequently the catalyst for implementation. By sharing their time and talents, volunteers not only help improve their communities but also gain satisfaction from contributing a part of themselves towards making a difference.

Perhaps the most significant benefit people realize from volunteering is the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives while making a difference in their community. The intangible benefits alone — such as pride, satisfaction and accomplishment — are in themselves worthwhile reasons to serve. There may be tangible benefits as well — such as discounts and awards — although many volunteers are simply content with the knowledge that their service has made a worthwhile contribution to community betterment. For them, at the end of the day, volunteers are enriched by the knowledge that they have improved someone else's life; there is no better reward for voluntarily assisting a worthy organization.

Most volunteers consider their activities as an investment in their community. Volunteer groups and non-profit organizations do so much to help the communities of which we are all a part, but they can't do it alone. As community members, we individually bear some responsibility to assist those who contribute to the common good and — in many cases — being actively and physically engaged is as important as providing monetary contributions. For many seniors, money can be less plentiful than time, but the latter is acutely needed and greatly appreciated by most non-profit organizations. "But," some say, "How do I find the time?" From the previously cited statistics, the average volunteer devotes less than a half-hour daily to charitable service — a small sacrifice considering the many rewards.

Now that you've decided that the aforesaid caveats are not a problem for you, the next step is deciding where to start. First, look inward and find what gives you satisfaction. Do you want to help improve your community? Do you like working with people? What cause do you most strongly believe in? There are many organizations that would welcome your help, but selecting an organization compatible with your personality traits and interests is essential to developing a mutually harmonious relationship.

After identifying your best-fit organization, consider the type of volunteering you want to do and how you want to be involved. For example, do you wish to serve as a board member, assist with administrative work, assist with website development and maintenance, help with fund raising, plan events, prepare mailings, or perform customer service? There are many more volunteering opportunities than you might imagine, so be open-minded. Also, be mindful that basic computer skills are often required to successfully perform many tasks.

Also, honestly establish the amount of time you can contribute and compare this with the expectations of the organization you have selected. In some cases, a relatively large period of time may be required initially for training after which you settle in to a normal routine. A case can also be made for avoiding organizations that do not provide some training or mentoring, since this usually leads to a stressful and unhappy volunteering situation.

So, now that you know the benefits of volunteering and how to match your individuality with an organization, what are you waiting for? Within your community, there are undoubtedly dozens of worthy organizations needing quality people to assist with an interesting variety of tasks. Each of us has been given talents with which we can help improve our communities, the lives of others, and ourselves.

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