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Monday, December 09, 2019
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Giving Back

 

    

     We are all so blessed in this country.  All you have to do to come to that realization is to travel out of our country.  As Americans, we focus on our blessings particularly this time of year as we celebrate Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas season. But, sometimes we feel we need to do more than gather around a table with family and friends.  Sometimes giving others something to be thankful for is the best way to express our own gratitude. 

     Who among us doesn’t have memories of covered dishes brought to our homes when there was a death in the family or an illness or a new baby? Many of us can remember when whole communities rallied around a family whose house burned to the ground back in the day when people heated with fireplaces or coal stoves. Clothes, food and shelter were found; and friends, family and strangers helped the family rebuild. This is volunteerism at its best.   

     Volunteering is good for us.     

      A wise man once said, “The rocking chair is death.” One of the best ways to stay healthy is to stay active. If we have a reason to get up in the morning, say an appointment to drive a shut-in to the doctor or a couple of hours organizing shelves at a local food bank, we tend to stay more physically active and pay better attention to our own well-being. So, volunteerism is a win/win situation.  Not only does the work benefit people, families, the environment and our communities; as in all giving, it benefits the givers.  

     Volunteering also helps prevent loneliness which is a major cause of depression in older adults. Volunteerism gets us out of the house and into the community. It’s a great way to make new friends while making a difference.  

     Giving back to our communities is good for our self-esteem. For those who have retired from a career that required a great deal of responsibility and leadership, volunteerism provides an outlet for those traits and talents and a way to feel needed again.    

     Volunteerism also gives retired individuals an opportunity to be engaged in the world in ways they may have always wanted but never had time for prior to retirement. They can share their skills and time in new ways and may find themselves blossoming into new interests and passions.   

     How does volunteerism benefit others?    

     The benefits of volunteerism to others may seem obvious. We are meeting the needs of others by providing our time, talents, resources and services. But, some benefits of volunteerism are less obvious.   

     For instance, public resources and money (i.e. our tax dollars) are saved  when volunteers meet a need that would otherwise require public funds or hours worked by public employees.   

     In addition, benefits of giving of our time and talents goes beyond the help provided to an individual.  An afternoon of volunteering can be a life-saver for the caretaker who needs temporary respite from responsibilities such as elder-care or the single mom who needs child care while she goes to night school.   

     Volunteerism is also a great way to connect with children and grandchildren in a meaningful way.  Mentoring is more meaningful when it benefits the wider community.  Taking grandchildren along to help serve food at a soup kitchen or work in a community garden provides wonderful opportunities for teaching lessons in charity, work ethic and understanding the plight of the less fortunate.   

     “Where do I sign up?”     
 
     Boomers who wish to become active in the volunteerism movement have more resources than ever before to find areas in which to volunteer.  
 

     Churches, local clubs and community organizations have always been a good starting point for those who want to volunteer. Sunday School and the church nursery are traditional volunteer opportunities, but seniors are also participating in church mission trips at home and abroad…meeting needs while exploring new parts of the country and the world.   

     Others  are offering their expertise and mentoring local businesses through civic organizations.

     In addition, there are several government sponsored volunteer organizations from which Boomers can tap into opportunities to help others.  These include The Corporation for National and Community Service, Senior Corps, World Volunteer Web, the Federal Civic Engagement Initiative and volunteermatch.org among others.  And of course, the internet offers a plethora of volunteer opportunities for those who wish to become active in the political and social spectrum.   

     For those of us who wish to volunteer closer to home, local newspapers often provide a listing of volunteerism opportunities for those who want to make a difference in their community. So, do yourself a favor. Who in your neighborhood needs a friend? Start there and learn how volunteerism blesses everyone involved.

Here are some ideas:
      Reach out to our heroes through
Operation Shoebox
     Volunteer at
Operation Care
     Volunteer as a temporary foster parent for a pet awaiting adoption at the
Shelby County Humane Society
     
Host an International Exchange Student
     Be a
Junior Achievement Volunteer
     Be a Sidewalker/Leader at the
Luci Therapeutic Riding Center
     Volunteer at the
Shelbyville History Museum
     Volunteer at
Stormhaven Youth Ranch

     Ring the bell for the  Salvation Army. 

 

     These are just a few ideas.  Check the newspaper for more local opportunities to give back to the community and the world.