The Joys of Volunteering

What do you think of when you hear the word “volunteer?” Perhaps you wish you had more time to give to your favorite causes. Maybe you got burned out from too many hours of service in the past. Or you might think of jobs that you wouldn’t be comfortable doing, like helping in a hospital or canvassing door-to-door. The thing is, there are all kinds of volunteer jobs, so there are bound to be opportunities that match up with your skills and availability. Whether it’s stuffing envelopes for a political group, creating a website for a small non-profit organization, or knitting hats for cancer patients, there are many ways to help.

Over the past couple of years of self-employment and flexible schedules, we’ve discovered the joys of volunteering. We staff the booth at various events, serve as officers and board members, and create newsletters for our spiritual community. We help out Habitat for Humanity (without lifting a hammer, since that’s not our forte), cook and serve food for 4-H, and bake goodies for local kids’ sports and homeschool fundraisers. We’ve both donated our services as Reiki healers, BlackLion answers phones for a public radio station, and Starcat gives Tarot readings to raise money for a Pagan networking organization.

Along with the warm feelings we get from helping causes we believe in, we also have a great time doing work we enjoy. It’s fun meeting like-minded people, whether they’re your fellow volunteers or people you meet as you enlist others in the cause. The people you work for are incredibly grateful for your help, and are expansive with their thanks and praise of volunteers. As a volunteer, you can often set your own hours, giving as much or as little time as you are able. And if you’re a bit short on extra money to donate to your favorite charities, giving your time is a great way to help without straining your budget.

The best way to get involved is to think about some of the things you enjoy doing. Then reflect on your values and the causes you’d like to support, such as animal rescue, feeding hungry kids, teaching adults to read, or helping clean up the environment. Don’t be overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of the work – it is accomplished gradually by many folks performing a multitude of tasks. Look online or in the phone book to find organizations that match up with your ideas, and give them a call. You can also ask your friends and family members what groups they support, and perhaps you’ll discover something you hadn’t thought of. From historical societies to libraries to domestic abuse hotlines, there are many groups doing valuable work in your community. Try it, and you might get hooked on volunteering!