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Volunteering Means Giving and Getting

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As unemployment rates continue to climb, folks who’ve worked for decades are losing their job and partly their identities. After all, “What do you do?” is one of the most commonly asked questions when meeting a new person.  That one question and your response to it really says, “I do/I am (fill in the blank here).”  Seldom do you meet someone who fails to identify with his or her job.

For many, unemployment is a time of transition as they move through the process of job hunting. Everyone begins with their own job title in a job search, and once exhausting it, they move on to similar job titles, then farther out until you meet someone who’s been out of work for six months and is looking at jobs far out in left field from what he or she is qualified or experienced to do.

Few look at this period of unemployment as an opportunity for growth, but the idea is picking up momentum. Around the country, people of all ages are flocking to volunteer and intern opportunities to “try out” new job possibilities.  Some want to share the skills they have, others are looking to fill the down-time of unemployment by having something worthwhile to add to their resume. Regardless of the reason for volunteering, the benefits cannot be denied.

Volunteers tend to be healthier with a stronger immune system, and define themselves in more positive terms that those who do not volunteer.  Some volunteer to socialize and meet new people, some to learn new skills.  Agencies are hungry for volunteers, not only do they fill a variety of tasks not performed by those on an agencies current payroll, but can save agencies a great deal of money that can now be spent on direct services to those in need. The number of hours a volunteer performs his or her service is considered an “in kind” donation by the agency, and can be used to represent matching funds or other assets when they make grant requests to outside organizations for money.

Those who volunteer come in all sizes and shapes, all ages and preferences. Some want to work with children, others with seniors, others only want to be near animals.  Volunteers donate nearly 30 percent of our local hospitals and medical facilities labor, volunteers comprise 60 percent of all EMS and First Aid squads nationwide. Volunteers help to keep libraries open, weekend sports teams playing, theatres and museums flowing and a variety of other services.  We are a volunteer nation!

Volunteer today—bring a friend, bring a child—do it as a group or on your own. Explore the many opportunities which exist locally and abroad; many of your local United Way offices have a volunteer center or access to one. Check popular websites like volunteermatch.com. Regardless of how you find your special designee of volunteer love, just do it! You will be helping to create lasting change in your community with an investment of only your time.

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