The Stalwart




Are you looking for interesting and economical activities to do this summer with family or friends? Trips and planned events are increasing as we continue to gain confidence in halting the progression of CoVid and as you plan your trips, family gatherings, or even spending a day or two with friends, consider including an opportunity to volunteer together whether for a few hours or an entire week. Volunteering, whether near or far from home, offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes and the community while providing a chance to gain insight on the variety of needs that can be found in our neighborhoods and across the globe. In serving others and your community, the benefits can be even greater for you, as the volunteer. Along with the benefit of working with others, and the camaraderie that comes with sharing in the experience, it is also an opportunity to connect deeper with the community, learn new skills, gain or build friendships and possibly advance a career.

Giving back through volunteerism, as an individual or with a group, has been an integral part of my adult life and a personal passion. I have had the joy of promoting and coordinating volunteer opportunities in my career as well as be an active participant with a variety of groups that include youth, adults, co-workers, family, and friends. The times I volunteer with others is always a more powerful experience that offers collaboration, a broader perspective, and a connectivity to the people I am serving with. Through collaboration, there is a coming together to share the task at hand and a greater sense of accomplishment. I also find serving together breaks down barriers and offers opportunity to gain a broader perspective on those I am serving with as well as on the service we are providing, whether it be person-focused or environmental.

In planning a group volunteer opportunity consider the abilities of your volunteers. I would caution to not underestimate their abilities – there have been many times that I have been in awe of how adept youth are to stepping up to the challenge to accomplish incredible tasks, and in record time! Also consider skill sets and strengths of the volunteers. If one volunteer has a passion for gardening – leading a group to work in a community garden could be a bonus for the volunteers with the experience they may gain from having a knowledgeable organizer that is happy to share their passion. Determine the amount of time your group is able to devote to the project or task. Much can be accomplished in a four-hour period, and in coordinating with an organization I always recommend that the organization have more tasks than they feel can be accomplished during the service time. It is a much more positive experience for the volunteers to have tasks that keep them engaged and active than to be floundering with nothing to do.
There are many studies that indicate and substantiate that the very act of giving back  increases self-esteem, a sense of well-being, reduces stress levels, and boosts health and happiness for the volunteer. A greater sense of empathy for those in need, also comes with taking time to connect with those being served. Taking time to understand their story, the obstacles and challenges they face and some of the steps they take to rise above those challenges is also part of the volunteer process that creates connectivity.

There are many ways to have summer fun this year. If not already serving in some capacity, I hope I have given you some thought to stepping out and joining others to give back in some fashion. I was blessed to run into some dear friends recently, from my church, and share breakfast with them. We caught up on current activities and I mentioned the topic and content of this article. This couple have been long-dedicated servants to others and to communities all over the world. She quickly exclaimed, “There is nothing that feels like the inner joy I get from serving others, in whatever capacity that I can, and I will do it as long as I possibly can!” Her passion, and heartfelt affirmation of serving brought John Wesley’s quote to mind “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can.”

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