One of the best ways to become involved in your new community is through volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are many, for everyone involved. Ask your employer for advice. Many companies give employees paid time off to volunteer and will often publicize their employees’ community service. According to the research group Independent Sector, the U.S. volunteer sector is equivalent to 9 million full-time workers. Whether you have an hour or a weekend, if you want to help kids or the environment, there are great organizations that will excite your particular interest, broaden your horizons and fit into your time schedule.
Don’t forget to include your family. If your children are school age chances are there are many opportunities to volunteer at their school, or even in their classroom. That is a great way to meet other parents with children the same age. Clean up a neighborhood park with your children. Spend a morning at a homeless shelter with your children. You’ll find that volunteering is not only a fun family-bonding experience but a great way to teach children the importance of giving back to the community.
How you get involved with your community depends on your interests, skills and time. Choose something that fits well in to your schedule and makes you excited about working together to help make a difference. Every person has that capability. Each of us can right a wrong, fill a plate, visit a shut-in or clean up a park, and that does make the world a better place.
There are several things to consider when choosing in what to involve yourself. First of all be selective, think about what matters to you, and where you wish to spend your time. If you have certain social issues that you feel passionate about, it’s a great place to put your energy. You may have particular skills that will steer you toward a certain organization. Are you willing to explore new opportunities? Volunteering can teach you valuable new skills that you may use in other parts of your life.
Many people are reminded of their wish to volunteer during holiday seasons, but this is when organizations might have an excess of help. If you want to volunteer during the holiday, remember to contact the organization in advance. Otherwise, time your work for the lean season.
Volunteering is fun, leads to learning new skills, meeting interesting people, making new friends, sharing your talents, and keeping in touch with the community in which you live. Whether it is important to you to solve a community problem, advance a worthy cause or to develop as a person, volunteering offers many benefits in appreciation for the gift of your time and expertise.
Once you have chosen an area of interest, how should you go about involving yourself? See what the Web can do for you. (800) Volunteer.org, a service of the Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network provides listings of local and virtual volunteering as well as contact information for Volunteer Centers across the nation. Open the classified section of your local paper. Check out the bulletin boards in your office. Or just start calling the local agencies you’re interested in.
One of the best ways to make these contacts is to walk right into the organization—a library, a shelter, training facility, or a political office—and find out who organizes volunteers. You can tell a lot by meeting the volunteer coordinator and any volunteers who happen to be on duty. While you won’t earn a paycheck for volunteering, you will earn valuable experience, a sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction that only comes from personally making the world a better place to live.