“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of watching my mother return to volunteering. Once busy with schools and other organizations, she grew less active after we were out of the house. That has changed. In her mid-sixties, my mom became an EMT, volunteering in spite of the physical and emotional demands. She loves it because she loves helping people. While my kids are young, I am like my mother before me, with most of my volunteer hours logged in the school system. Still, as I keep my eyes peeled for more volunteering opportunities – but not as an EMT! – I am encouraged and inspired by the number of volunteers I see in action.
In fact, a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that nearly 27 percent of the U.S. population did volunteer, contributing approximately 8 billion hours of service. And in spite of a challenging economy and increasing nonprofit needs, a third of those who volunteered in the Richmond area still contributed more than 100 hours per year from 2006 to 2008. That’s a lot of Giving back.
Volunteering not only advances the common good, it’s good for us, too. A recent Gallup poll reported that people who volunteered experienced an overall Helper’s high.” U.S. News & World Report also cited results from more than 30 studies suggesting volunteers live longer, possess higher functional ability, and enjoy lower rates of depression and heart disease.
Along the same lines, when families volunteer, they spend quality time together while gaining fresh perspectives on their community.
Although the average age of a volunteer may vary, most fall between the ages of 30 and 44. However, young adults and children are becoming increasingly involved, whether through school, church, or the examples they see at home. In fact, volunteer rates for those Aged 16 to 24 nearly doubled from 1989 to 2005, according to The Corporation for National and Community Service. The United Way suggests that when children are exposed to volunteerism, they are less likely to be involved in at-risk behavior, will learn social responsibility, and may develop a lifelong ethic of service.
Here’s How Real Richmond Families Volunteer:
“I was not sure I was a suitable mentor for a struggling fifth grader. I quickly realized, however, that just showing up every week set me apart from many of the adults in her life. One day, I went only to learn she was out sick. Partnered with another boy, we were playing a game of hangman. The boy spelled out ‘Please don’t leave me.’ It melted my heart. Now I go twice a week.” – Pendle
“I am always looking for ways to include my children in altruistic ventures and make an impact. Our church participated in a Stop Hunger Now event. Roughly 300 adults and children packed enough meals to feed 50,000 people in underprivileged countries. Another activity that I do with my children is provide food to a homeless shelter for mentally impaired adults.” – Jeanne
“On rainy days, the boys and I bake brownies, then bring them to the local fire department to show our thanks for all they do. Usually the boys get a tour of the facilities and get to sit on the trucks. They love it and it shows them how to be appreciative for services others provide.” – Cameron
“When our own children were growing up, we encouraged them in philanthropy. Every trip to Ukrop’s was an occasion to choose something to put in the Food Bank box. When they were older, they came along on Bright Beginnings shopping trips, helping choose shoes and coats and crayons. They colored pictures or wrote letters to our sponsored ChildFund children. Our grown daughter now sponsors a ChildFund girl in Uganda and an orphan boy in Ukraine.” – Mary
“We have done Habitat for Humanity in Goochland, and we have donated and transported things out to Goochland Fellowship & Family Services. We are always involved with cooking, preparing lunches and serving meals when CARITAS visits. We have spread mulch at a nursing home…we usually just answer a call for help from church. The need seems to vary.” – Frances
“As teachers, we work with an outside organization to take children to buy new clothes, shoes, etc. when a financial crisis arises. We make summer camps available and then take the children and pick them up. We take the children to sporting events, lunches at a nice restaurant, and to other events in Richmond – like the circus. All these activities build self-esteem, increase their real world experiences, and teach relationshipbuilding skills.” – Stan and Steve
“I often feel that the contribution of our family is so small, but combined with others it can make a big difference. I was particularly proud of my children, when after the devastating earthquake in January, they both gave all of their money to the Haiti ministry.” – Maria
“I come from a long line of volunteers. My Mom was involved in PTA and Woman’s Club. My father was a founding member of Kempsville Fire Department. They taught us to help our neighbors. I was volunteering at Peter Paul Development Center in Church Hill. They wanted to take the children swimming but most did not have suits. I sent a few emails to family and friends.Over a hundred beautiful suits and towels came rolling in!” – Bev