Did you know that this week, April 15th – 21st, is National Volunteer Week? Established in April 1974, President Richard Nixon signed an executive order dedicating the week to those who give their time to charity. Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.† Each year it’s grown in scope and notoriety due to the support of sitting presidents, governments and other elected officials. In 2010, 62.8M people volunteered in the United States alone!*
Have You Ever Volunteered For Something?
I have. In fact, I’ve recently increased my volunteer activities. (I currently volunteer at several local food pantries, with my college alumni chapter and at my local PBS station.) In the past I only volunteered periodically, but over the last two years, I’ve found organizations that I am truly moved to support. Overall, I find volunteering a fun and rewarding way to give back to my community. As an added benefit, it has often made me reflect and be more appreciative of where I am and what I’ve accomplished in my life.
It’s a great way to further a cause that you believe in. You can meet interesting people who share your passion, and more importantly, you’ll be making a difference in your community, in the world and as a human being. From a professional perspective, volunteering can provide you with hands-on experience and/or a new skill in an industry that you are considering for your career. It can also help you find and develop new and valuable networking contacts, people you may not have had the opportunity to meet in your full-time job.
You should know that not all volunteer activities are necessarily “fun,” (e.g., cleaning a warehouse, packing boxes, stuffing envelopes, sorting inventory etc. aren’t too exciting), but if you understand how the purpose of what you are doing is furthering the organization, and more importantly, you believe in the organization and its mission, it’s well worth it.
Need Ideas On How You Can Get Started?
- Food Pantries – There are both local and regional food pantries out there. You can simply start out by making a donation (food, paper goods, health/beauty products) while you learn more;
- Do You Listen to NPR or Watch your local PBS station? – Local PBS stations (radio and TV) always need help, as a bonus, you are already a fan;
- The Arts – Do you go to the theatre or ballet? Many of these organizations are non-profit or have an accompanying non-profit foundation. You can help by staffing events or potentially with their administrative needs;
- United Way – This is a great national organization that helps a variety of local non-profits and foundations that focus on children and families, many who might live in your own community;
- Volunteer Match – Here’s another great resource that I found during my research. It includes a blog about volunteering, a library of organizations where you can get involved (including a system that’s geared towards matching your interests and location) and an option to add your charity or non-profit to their list/library.
What talents do you have that you could share? Do you already volunteer? What organizations do you support? What prompted you to get involved? Share your feedback as others may be interested in getting involved/supporting your organization too!
† How Stuff Works, and the Resource Center
*Volunteering in America
More about National Volunteer Week Visit Points of Light
Huffington Post Impact “Is Volunteering Worth it? The Economics of Volunteering” 4/5/12 blog
Today starts the first day of Lent, the Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. For those of you who might not know… Lent as described by Wikipedia, is traditionally marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance, (regret for and amending of our sins) for 40 days. Many who observe Lent may fast or give up favorite things like chocolates, alcohol or swearing, others may attend church services more regularly to renew their faith.
After speaking with my minister a few years ago, I have taken a slightly different tack when it comes to Lent. Rather than giving up luxury items or fasting, I try to be a better person in my treatment, care, and interaction of/with others for those 40 days.
Some examples of how I’ve participated in Lent have been:
- Working at my local food bank
I’ve continued doing this to this day
- Taking the higher road/giving the benefit of doubt when faced with adversity
I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Perhaps their anger or rudeness is not really about me (even though may seem like it). Perhaps he/she is just having a really bad day and I’m in front of them. Reacting to their rudeness or anger it may only escalate it or extend it to others later in the day. Same goes for someone who cuts me off. I try to think that they are in a bigger hurry than me. (Note: Candidly, this perspective doesn’t always work, but I do try to put it into practice when I can!)
- Practicing random acts of kindness
I’ve added change to an expiring meter, helped someone up the stairs, and simply just held the door open for someone else.
- Appreciating the things that I have in my life vs. the things that I do not
I’ve found this last one harder at times to accept, because there are times I’ve yearned for things that I wanted vs. needed. So perhaps in retrospect, this is the one I should really focus on during each Lenten season and beyond because it talks about giving things up.
Maybe I’m taking more of a modern twist on the whole Lenten season or I’m missing the point. I’m just not sure I see the value or what I would truly take away from just giving up my favorite foods for 40 days when I know that I can have them again in March or April. Perhaps this true appreciation and the act of helping is a better way to look at this time of year, at least for me. I know it makes me feel like I’m making a difference in making my community and my world a better place. And hey, if I can continue to do these things beyond the allocated 40 days, all the better.
If you’re celebrating Lent this year, what will be your approach?