Valley of the Sun, AZ

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The Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

  April 07, 2015
Americans are very generous when it comes to donating and volunteering their time. Altogether, 62.6 million Americans volunteer their time and talent. In Arizona, 1.19 million people gave a total of 159.5 million hours of service to their community and nonprofit organizations in 2013 — that’s one in every four Arizona residents. Many organizations simply would not be able to survive if not for the generosity of their volunteers and donors. More than 138 million Americans also engaged in “informal volunteering” closer to home, helping family or neighbors with yard work, childcare, pet sitting, and errands, etc. To all volunteers, thank you for your generosity of time and compassion for others.

Helper’s High
Volunteering has long been a common ethic in the United States, with people each year giving their time without any expectation of compensation. While these volunteer activities may be performed with the core intention of helping others, there is also a common wisdom that those who give of themselves also receive. Researchers have attempted to measure the benefits that volunteers receive, including the positive feeling referred to as “helper’s high,” increased trust in others, and increased social and political participation.

This is particularly true when working with volunteers with a low self-esteem — like the homeless and those struggling with poverty. Having an opportunity to give, when in need, can result in a life changing new direction for some volunteers. Being thanked for a job well done or for their assistance can leave some volunteers feeling needed and that their life has value for what may be the first time in many years.

Volunteering can lift spirits. Some volunteers begin to smile and transform into a new person; they let go of the struggles that held them back and, instead, focus on what they can do to help others. Armed with new skills and a new outlook on life, many volunteers succeed in finding employment.

Health Benefits
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, there is a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering. Possibly because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing. Some of these findings also indicate that volunteers who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.

Living Longer
Studies show that older adults who give social support to others have lower rates of mortality — in other words, they are healthier and they live longer. In fact, the studies show that providing support has a stronger impact on health and a longer life than receiving support from others. As the old saying goes, it really is “better to give than to receive.”

Life Satisfaction
Other studies show the benefits of volunteering are both physical and mental. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and is strongly correlated to “life satisfaction.” And, for volunteers over the age of 65, volunteering leads to lower rates of depression.

Additional Benefits
  • Making new friends and meeting new people
  • Developing new interests
  • Learning new skills
  • Making a difference in someone's life
  • Enjoying the satisfaction that comes from helping others
  • Awards and recognition
  • Participating in events
  • Ability to utilize your skills without the commitment of full-time work
Employment
Volunteering is an excellent way to increase your likelihood of finding a job, increasing your odds by as much as 27 percent, according to volunteeringinamerica.gov. It also fills in the gap of employment on your resume. Volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.

Jump In
Have you thought about volunteering, but just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Or maybe you’re just not sure what to do or where to volunteer. Do you enjoy working with children or the elderly? Or maybe you like to cook or prefer an office setting. The list is limitless — schools, churches, hospitals and the local cities all depend on volunteers.  If you enjoy being outside, consider volunteering for the parks and recreation in your area or in a community garden. For someone that loves animals, there are lots of shelters that need help with the daily task of caring for animals. Foster a dog or cat in your home until a forever home is found. There is also the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boys and Girls Clubs as well as health organizations for disease, like cancer and diabetes.

The holiday season is a popular time for many people to be thankful and volunteer for a local food bank, meal program, or favorite charity. Most organizations have a very large influx of volunteers during the holidays, sometimes to the point of having more help than they can use. No doubt, it’s a good problem to have for any volunteer coordinator, but these same organizations often struggle to have enough manpower, particularly during the summer months when many of their consistent volunteers take a vacation. Consider using another special day like your birthday or anniversary as the time to donate your services, it will be appreciated.

There are many great ways to volunteer in the East Valley area — become a volunteer and make a difference in someone’s life, including your own!

Sources available upon request.
Photo credit: SilviaJansen/woraput/bowdenimages




East Valley Organizations That Depend on the Generosity of Volunteers

Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA)
TCAA operates two community gardens and always welcomes new volunteers. Join TCAA and learn all the secrets of gardening In the desert. Other volunteer opportunities include drivers needed assisting in home delivered meals and food box distribution.

Contact Sarah Lords at 480-350-5884 or by email at sarahl@tempeaction.org

YMCA
Wonderful volunteering opportunities are available at the YMCA. You can volunteer to coach youth sports, be a one-on-one mentor with a child in the mentoring program, or countless other opportunities. The benefit of volunteering with children is the honor to be a role model to a child and have the opportunity to make a huge difference in their life. You can build friendships to last a lifetime! The YMCA also has a volunteer board of directors, which has the benefit of networking with other adults who want to make a huge impact in an organization that helps others.

Contact Info: Gilbert/Chandler YMCA, 1655 W Frye Rd, Chandler, AZ, 480-899-9622. Mesa YMCA, 207 N Mesa Drive, 480-969-8166. Visit www.valleyymca.org for other East Valley locations.

ICAN
ICAN is a free, family-centered after-school youth service in the East Valley for at-risk youth. They provide a full complement of programs proven effective in equipping youth to achieve personal and academic success by tackling substance abuse, gang involvement and juvenile delinquency. 

Specifically, eight out of 10 young people in the areas served live in extreme poverty. Four of those children will go to bed hungry and eight will be using drugs or alcohol to cope with the harsh realities they face. Joining gangs becomes a more viable choice than graduation. This is not an option for ICAN which works to combat these issues.

Securing consistent role models to spend time with youth during programs is ICAN’s greatest volunteer need.

To learn more, interested volunteers can visit ICAN's website at www.icanaz.org or contact ICAN’s volunteer coordinator, Deanna Schlagenhaft, by phone at 480-874-7578 or by email at deanna@icanaz.org or drop by the office at 650 E. Morelos St., Chandler, AZ, 85225

East Valley RSVP
At the offices of East Valley RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), they recruit, orientate, engage, match, and support volunteers, age 55 and older, in their commitment to voluntary activities for — on average — two hours a week. The volunteer opportunities they offer are found at 70 “volunteer stations” — nonprofit organizations, medical centers, or government/tribal agencies throughout Arizona’s eastern Maricopa, Gila, and Pinal counties.

To enroll as an RSVP volunteer, simply call or email your request for more information and an application form. The best time to call is Monday through Thursday mornings, 480-775-1466. Email: kpeterson@evarmobile.org.

Dignity Health
Volunteers at Dignity Heath are special, caring, and kind individuals who give of their time — without pay — to assist with patient and non-patient care. Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center and Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center are always looking for adult volunteers, over the age of 19, to spread human kindness and enhance the comfort and satisfaction of patients, staff, and visitors.

To learn more about available volunteer opportunities at Dignity Health’s East Valley hospitals, please visit chandlerregional.org or mercygilbert.org and follow the volunteer tabs under “Ways to Give.” Back to Top

April 07, 2015

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