Sounding the trumpet
It’s National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to show appreciation for those who give of their time by either volunteering on their own or with service organizations. Why not participate by becoming a volunteer yourself?
I got seriously involved in volunteering last summer to help get through a very difficult period in my life. I’ve always been the type of person who drops a buck in a homeless person’s cup and donates to canned food drives and such, but I had never before aligned myself with a specific organization. After coming across a blurb about them in a local magazine, I registered myself with New York Cares, a citywide service that matches volunteers to assignments with hundreds of different nonprofit agencies and charities, from soup kitchens to nursing homes to animal shelters. Through New York Cares, I’ve helped socialize shelter cats, delivered food to the elderly, made greeting cards for nursing home residents, read and worked on craft projects to children living in a homeless shelter and sorted and cleaned toys and clothing donated to young mothers struggling with finances, amongst other tasks. I’ve also given my time to services separate of New York Cares. Currently I am involved in at least one project per week.
Getting involved in volunteering is simply one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. It’s amazing how good it feels to just help, even if there’s really nothing in it for you but a sense of goodwill and minor accomplishment. Actually, there is something in it for you–if you’re feeling down and sorry for yourself, get off your ass and do some good, and I guarantee you will feel at least a little better. You gain a tremendous amount of perspective and you discover just how much our purpose in this world has to do with helping people. While the number of volunteers has increased over the past year, so has the number of people and organizations in need, so there is no better time than now to take part. If you can’t donate money, then donate your time. We have no excuse not to take just a couple hours out of the month to help. I think that bears repeating: we have no excuse not to take just a couple hours out of the month to help.
Besides the aforementioned New York Cares, here are a few of my other favorite charities: RAINN, Infinite Hope, God’s Love We Deliver, Planned Parenthood, the Humane Society and the Coalition for the Homeless. Wonderful opportunities can be found with these invaluable agencies, but if you’d prefer to try something different, most major cities have their own volunteer placement websites. Craigslist also has a section for volunteering opportunities, and you won’t even have to send n00dz to take part! If your town isn’t big enough to have its own Craigslist, try the newspaper, your local hospital or even just a community bulletin board at the grocery store. The need will always be there. Murals aren’t going to paint themselves and soup kitchens can’t operate without human assistance. It’s up to us to take the initiative.