Do you have room to add one more New Year’s Resolution to your list? I have a really good one for you. Set a goal this year to volunteer! There are many good reasons to do so. You can help others and make our community a better place. However, you may not realize how good volunteering is for you, too!
Volunteering can help you accomplish some of your other resolutions as well. Whether you’re looking to solve a community problem, advance a worthy cause or grow as a person, volunteering offers many benefits in exchange for your gifts of time and expertise.
• Benefit 1: Volunteering connects you to others. One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.
Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network and boost your social skills.
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources and fun and fulfilling activities.
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
• Benefit 2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body. Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Volunteering combats and reduces the risk of depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and can help you develop a solid support system. This, in turn, protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.
Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial for older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
• Benefit 3: Volunteering can advance your career. If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management and organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position.
Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career.
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication and marketing skills.
• Benefit 4: Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life. Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school and family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a volunteer position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. We have loads of volunteer opportunities available with Keep Liberty Beautiful and would love to have you involved. But whether you choose our organization or one of the other worthy causes in our area, resolve this year to make a difference. You might find the biggest difference is in you!
• No gifts of litter on our roads, please! When you are “undecking your Christmas halls,” recycle all the garbage that you can, save any items you can reuse next year and tie off garbage bags tightly! Secure your trash loads in your vehicles or garbage cans so that you do not give the environment an unwanted gift of more litter.
• Through Jan. 8: Bring One for the Chipper. Plan now to recycle your live Christmas tree after the holidays at any Solid Waste or recycling convenience center or at designated locations on Fort Stewart. There is a new location in Hinesville at the corner of Oglethorpe Highway and Carter Street. Trees will be chopped into mulch or used as fish habitats in local ponds. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 880-4888.
• Jan. 15-Feb. 15: Phonebook recycling. We will set up collection boxes around the county for recycling phonebooks and large catalogs. For information, call 880-4888.