It would be difficult to imagine how some organizations or groups could function without volunteers. And mature people are ideally suited to enhance their community’s quality of life through volunteering by putting a lifetime of skills and experience to good use.
Volunteering has many positive results. It is a good way to keep busy, meet new people and feel needed now that the children are on their own. It’s also perfect for keeping physically and mentally active. And, it puts one’s own problems into perspective.
Often volunteers get involved with a specific group or organization because they have lost a loved one to a devastating illness. However, if you are uncertain on how you could volunteer in your community, begin by assessing your interests and experience. Most of us have accumulated so many skills that it might be difficult in fact to focus on one in particular, so sit down and make a list.
If you “only” raised a family, you have organizational, teaching, money management and people skills that a wide range of organizations could use. If you love working with your hands, you could offer your services to do repairs and maintenance at shelters or food banks. If you drive a car, you can deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound people. If you are a grandparent, look into getting involved in your community’s intergenerational programs to guide a young child who doesn’t have grandparents. If you can read, an elderly person with poor eyesight would welcome being read to. If you have telephone, you can become a lifeline for a lonely, forgotten elderly person by keeping in touch on a daily basis. The list is almost endless.
If you love to clown around, why not don a clown suit and visit a local hospital so ill children can laugh, or visit a veterans facility to share stories and play games. If you write well, consider giving your time to writing an organization’s newsletter or other materials. Youth groups of all sorts could use the expertise of teachers.
Once you have determined how you would like to volunteer, here are some pointers:
-- If you have a specific organization in mind, contact the chapter in your community and speak with the manager of volunteers. Most charities have Web sites which provide volunteering information and opportunities.
-- Contact your local volunteer bureau to collect information about the volunteer needs of organizations and to identify the agencies that could benefit from your support.
-- Check local media. Community newspapers regularly list volunteer needs in their area.
-- Talk to friends and relatives who already volunteer as they can provide information.
THE NEXT STEP
Volunteering today involves more than simply coming forward and offering your time and skills. Organizations do try to match volunteers to positions to ensure a positive experience for everyone concerned.
As a prospective volunteer, you can expect a process which will include:
· An application A formal application helps the organization determine how best to use your talents.
· An interview This process is an opportunity for you the perspective volunteer to learn more about volunteer positions and their responsibilities.
· A background check To avoid problems down the road, organizations do background checks on perspective volunteers and do contact references.
· Training Organizations usually provide orientation and training to their volunteers to ensure they clearly understand their responsibilities as a volunteer.
Volunteering is an act of generosity that should be fun. Once an organization and you have agreed on a specific activity, remember that if it isn’t what you expected you can ask to do something else. Happy volunteers contribute their time for years, something charitable organizations understand only too well. Simply explain the problem frankly and openly.
The sense of fulfillment makes it all worthwhile. There is a feeling of satisfaction and pride at contributing to ease the burden of others while being positively energized.