By Joan Whetzel
Giving your possessions and money to charity is a good thing; it definitely helps with the tax returns. But giving of your time and talents is just as good, if not better. Volunteering not only helps others, it carries its own rewards to the giver. There are many avenues for teenagers and adults to volunteer that offer them the opportunity to care for others, expands their job skills, and builds their resumes. For recently retired adults volunteering can provide a way to constructively fill that newly found free time.
Become a candy striper or volunteer. For teens, candy striping is a way of beginning their education in the medical field and offers valuable job experience. Retired adults volunteers act as the support system for the patients and hospital staff.
Nursing Home Volunteers
Volunteering in a nursing home is especially great for teens, who profit from the opportunity to work with people who are old enough to be their grandparents or great-grandparents. It's like gaining extra grandparents. And the older folks love hanging out with the young crowd who keep them young at heart. Adult volunteers can take the opportunity to share their work skills by teaching classes in everything from computers to music and art, or provide tax help (accountants) and legal help (lawyers),
Animal Shelter Volunteers
Volunteers of any age can do a number of volunteer activities at animal shelters. Volunteer to exercise the animals, cleaning cages, answering phones, and filing.
Volunteering to clean the environment begins at home by cleaning up the neighborhood or local parks, or even volunteering your scout troop or organization to clean a mile of highway. On the other hand if you feel a calling to volunteer on a much larger scale, Green Peace and the Sierra Club are always looking for people to help with their campaigns. The only limits here are your level of commitment and the amount of time you have available.
Red Cross Volunteers
The American Red Cross is always looking for donations to help those in need during times of disasters. However, they also need volunteers. Volunteers may help out during disasters or in one of the other areas that the Red Cross has available within your own community, by becoming a disaster preparedness presenter, a blood drive volunteer, or simply by using blogs and social media to be an advocate for the Red Cross.
Museums always need good volunteers to help with office work and to work as docents. Docents either lead tours or show museum pieces to the public that are not usually on display.
Food Drive Volunteers
Organize a food drive for canned goods and other non-perishables for your local food banks and soup kitchens. They can be organized through schools, churches, or any other community organization. Plus, donating non-perishables provide the opportunity for the others in the community to donate goods without having to volunteer time that they may not have.
Book Drive Volunteers
Book drives, like food drives, ask people to donate books for their local libraries and schools. This provides giving opportunities for the people donating their gently used books and to the people volunteering their time to the cause. Whatever books cannot be added to the library or school books shelves can then be sold in a book sale, which provides extra funds to the library's coffers.
Holiday Event Volunteers
Local news stations and newspapers generally keep a running list of volunteer opportunities during the holidays, including soup kitchens, holiday dinner service to the poor and homeless, clothing drives, food drives, bell ringers dressed as Santa to name a few. Churches, homeless shelters and women's shelters, nursing homes and hospitals are frequently looking for extra hands and spirits to help out during the holidays. It may require serving food, or handing out blankets, or collecting clothes. Simply pick a holiday and look up the volunteer opportunities. There are plenty of volunteer jobs and time commitments to choose from.
Other Volunteer Opportunities
Other ways to serve with time, money or other gifts include joining the Red Cross, driving for Meals on Wheels, and raising funds for the United Way. The sky's the limit.
Getting the Most Out of Volunteering
To get the most out of your volunteer experience, go in with an open heart, letting the people you serve know that you're happy to be of service and can't wait to get started. Be willing to do any job that needs doing; no job is too small or too insignificant. Don't miss the days you're scheduled to work. And be proactive. If you see something that needs doing, don't wait to be asked, just do it or ask if it's okay if you do it.