Volunteering Should Be Year Round, Not Just Seasonal

MICHAEL COLEMAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is just around the corner, putting many in the mood for sharing their time with others.

But once the holidays are over and life returns to normal, people tend to forget about those in need. It is important to remember that volunteering should be a year-round activity; it should not be thought of as something to do only during the holidays.
There are so many individuals, groups and organizations in our communities that are in need of help and attention. It is imperative that those with spare time and resources want to lend a helping hand all year long.

Oftentimes when people talk about volunteering, the assumption is that it makes them feel sentimental, warm and fuzzy inside, but when asked to participate in community activities or in nonprofit work, they seem to have no time to spare or have other plans. The idea is appealing, but doing the actual work is sometimes more an idea than a reality.
There are benefits to being a volunteer. Medical and sociological studies have drawn attention to the physical health benefits of social integration and social support. By helping others, individuals can develop stronger networks that buffer stress, reduce disease risks, and also reduce unpleasant levels of self-absorption.

People have an innate desire to feel needed or wanted. By becoming a volunteer, one can meet those desires.

When someone volunteers, they feel that they are making a difference, and this enhances personal efficacy.

Volunteering provides a sense of control over one’s life and one’s environment and alleviating negativity in one’s life.

By volunteering, a person is not just helping others, but gaining personal benefit. In the long run, the volunteer enhances his or her own sense of social and mental well-being.
It is easy to find places to volunteer. There are many resources and listings online that offer suggestions.

There are many of organizations through which one can volunteer their services, such as the Salvation Army. Although this organization does a great service to the community when it comes to feeding and sheltering the homeless during the holidays, non-members can also help them by donating old clothes and canned food during the year.

Big containers, in which one can drop off donated items, can be found in the parking lots of several local grocery stores, making it easy and convenient for those who want to help.
The Red Cross is another organization that offers the opportunity to contribute to the community. Blood drives are not the only activities the Red Cross sponsors. Their community volunteers visit and help the elderly and work with children.

Volunteering does not have to be a time-consuming commitment. One can give as little as 30 minutes or an hour out of a day, week or month. It is a wonderful feeling to know that one has helped just by spending a little time reading to someone or listening to their life stories.

It is very important to keep in mind that volunteering does not have to come in the form of helping a human being; it can be helping animals, picking up trash to keep the community clean or doing administrative/office work for a volunteer program.

GCC students can volunteer on campus by helping tutor other students at the Learning Center. Students can also be mentors at local high schools: The possibilities are endless.
There are many people in the community who are in need, and those who offer their time, energy and resources to help out the needy are not only helping others; they also gain the benefits of building relationships and expressing kindness, something the world can always use a little more of.

Imagine how America might be improved, one life at a time, if more people were able to donate their time to help one another.