It�s February! This month we�re talking about something that brings our HQ team lots of joy - volunteering. We�re big on volunteering around here. In fact, we launched a program trading laundry plans to students who want more community service in their lives. �It�s called the LNL Grant Program - check it out here. Volunteering can change lives, ignite passions, and build friendships.
Everyone Has Their Thing
Written by Melissa Kraft, Psychology & Sociology Major, SMU
Everyone has their "thing." Some people have music, others have sports, while some have performing arts. For me, my biggest passion has always been volunteering and serving my community. One of my favorite memories of volunteering was last semester when I volunteered with Reading Partners, an organization that teaches underprivileged children how to read. Although many people can take the seemingly simple skill of literacy for granted, for many people, knowing how to read and write is not a guarantee. One of my most rewarding moments was when one of the girls I tutored "graduated" from Beginning Reader to Growing Leader, which was a huge step. I made an effort to emphasize the importance of the development of her reading skills and how proud she should be of her progress. One of my favorite aspects of volunteering is being able to connect with people who I might have not otherwise and I am able to make a difference in my community. I love volunteering and I hope to inspire others to make positive change as well. Not only do I get to serve people through my volunteer work, but they also teach me new things about myself and help me grow as a leader. Volunteering is something that I want to spend the rest of my life doing and is truly my biggest passion!
Can I Get A Volunteer?
Ok, volunteering - what is the latest? Surprisingly, statistics show a declining volunteer rate throughout the country. In 2015, 24.9% of the U.S. population over the age of 16 volunteered at least once during the year. A 1.9% drop from 2011 (BLS). It�s clear that people who participate view volunteering as a positive, but why the decline in actual engagement?
Honestly, we're not sure. We want you to love it as much as we do. We did the research and found compelling reasons as to how volunteering positively impacts the participant's present and the future..
Commitment goes a long way
Stephanie Howeth, Director of Community Engagement at SMU in Dallas, works directly with college students to connect them to organizations identifying needs in the community. �Her research shows that students who engage in long-term projects while in college are more energized by their experience, see a greater overall benefit, and more likely to engage with another organization in the future. The commitment and effort put forth into relationships and projects often yield stronger desire to engage in social action well after college.
The world needs what you know
Often times non-profit organizations ask for specific interests or skills in order to best place you within their system. If you�re particularly interested or gifted in a certain field, there are always ways to build or use skills to gain hands-on experience while volunteering and serving the local community. For example - if you�re capable of speaking a different language, you could work to find volunteering opportunities that put you in a position to use that skill. Maybe you can type extra fast, have a knack for computer programming, or know the ins and outs of resumes and cover letters? Search for ways to share skills with those who may need help getting up to speed. In both cases, teaching and using a developed skill will strengthen your own technique and help someone who has the desire to learn.
Useful team experiences
You�ve had a few group projects and maybe the opportunity to be on a team, right? It�s not always easy to find rhythm with teammates. Research shows the best way to learn more about team dynamics is more direct experience. We can attest, understanding team dynamics and communication is vital for any career. Volunteering at an organization that allows you to work on a team is a great way to immerse yourself in something that, no doubt, will render long-term benefits.
Spread the joy
Whether it�s someone in need or someone with a big vision for an impactful project, volunteering is an act of service. We all have felt this. Serving is outward focused and changes attitude from �I� to �you�. It�s an exercise of humility and purpose. More time focusing on the needs of others can help put into perspective the changes the world needs.
Get Out There
Here�s a bit of local flavor that might help kick-start your journey into giving more time to your community. If you don�t see an opportunity that suits you, but find some of these opportunities interesting, please feel free to reach out to our team to find out about other opportunities in your town.
Arts 'n Autism
Crossroads Animal Rescue
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard
Recipe for Success
Austin Pets Alive!
Bureau of Labor Statistics