By Bekah Clawson, President & CEO
One nice fall afternoon several years ago, I was introduced to Sarah, a woman who had come to our organization to volunteer. As I often have when introduced to volunteers I asked, “So, what brought you here to volunteer?” The usual answer was “I needed something to fill my time,” or “I really like what you do and wanted to help.” What she actually said, I wasn’t prepared for. “I needed some connection,’ Sarah explained, “I live alone and I wanted to find a place where I could offer my time, my skills, and offer my friendship to others who wanted the same thing,” she paused and then said, “it’s really the best gift I have.” I listened carefully and realized Sarah had a view of volunteering that I had not thought of. Being a volunteer means that you are offering something – something that is not required nor is an obligation. Most of the time, to volunteer means that you are working side by side with others. This connects you to other human beings as you are working toward a common goal. When you volunteer, you are making connections. I did some research and found out that social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems. Maybe Sarah had landed on a recipe for better mental health that would also achieve other goals.
I have had conversations with many volunteers over my years in non-profit work and know that people choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Volunteering encourages young people to think of others and become compassionate young adults. Or like Sarah, some choose to volunteer because they want to offer their gift of service and in turn receive real and genuine connection to others.
At Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, there is always a need for volunteers. In all of the eight counties we serve there are tailgates that require anywhere from 7 to 20 volunteers to help distribute food to our neighbors in need. We have partner agencies in each of our counties who I am sure would value the opportunity to meet you and explore the possibility of volunteering with them. You can find a list in each county here.
In Muncie, we schedule individuals, families, and groups at our warehouse daily. There is always something to do that might not get done without volunteers. I am aware as the weather gets colder and the holidays approach it is harder to make that volunteer commitment, however, this is when most nonprofits need you the most. The need never stops.
So, if you want to make a difference, meet people, be a part of a community, learn new skills, take on a challenge, have fun, reduce stress, or create a sense of purpose and social support try volunteering. Seek out a nonprofit near you or plug into the programs in your county through Second Harvest Food Bank by visiting our Volunteer Page. If you need help call our office at (765) 287-8698 and ask for Kellie Arrowood, our Volunteer Coordinator.
I wish you a happy journey as you give your gift of volunteering in connection with others!