Volunteering brings social, community and personal benefits

We generally view volunteering in our communities as an altruistic activity that when mined in its purest vein is done without recompense, either financial or social for those doing the volunteering. But volunteering has long been known to bring with it as much benefit for the volunteer as for those who benefit from the volunteerism itself.

Small rural communities know only too well the important role that volunteers play in creating a better quality of life for everyone in the community. Countless hours spent by volunteers working on local flower and garden displays vastly improve the look of our communities. Dedicated groups of volunteers scour the roadsides in our communities to clean up the debris deposited alongside the highways and byways.

There are few churches to be found that do not have dedicated members taking solace to those shut in their homes due to sickness, infirmity or other challenges associated with health or age.

Dedicated volunteers fill in the ranks of our emergency responders, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue teams, Victims in Crisis Assistance workers come to the aid of those struck by fire, accident or other mishap.

To provide all of those services maintained in our communities would come at a prohibitive cost, were it not for those who offer up their time, talents and treasure in order to serve their fellow human beings. There are those whose volunteer efforts serve our four-footed and feathered friends, those who seek to protect the endangered plant life whose efforts are invaluable as well.

But volunteerism, for all its altruistic foundations, brings with it well-known positive benefits for those doing the volunteering. There is, of course, the economic benefits of the networking that is involved in volunteer work, the people that you meet and the contacts that you make, can lead to better job and career opportunities. Then there is the training that many volunteers receive that can not only lead to better employment opportunities, but can also provide lifesaving skills that could benefit those in your own home of family in crisis. There is some comfort to be found in knowing what to do when faced with a natural or personal disaster.

There are many side benefits to be found in volunteer activities that come with the territory. The innumerable contacts that take place helps create a broader world view and is even proven to have a beneficial impact on academic achievement. So teaching our children to volunteer will assist them positively when they seek out higher education. Volunteers tend to complete their degrees.

Not only does surrounding yourself with new people and learning how to work together as a group help to improve teamwork and relational skills, it helps you find others with the same interests. Mental health, especially as we age, has been proven to improve with social contacts and volunteerism is great at providing those contacts.

Through volunteerism we discover that we have much in common with those around us and we learn to develop empathy with others, all important building blocks to serve as the foundation of a healthy community.

Volunteering improves quality of life and health and that has been proven to include longevity for those who donate their time. Research has found that older adults will benefit the most from volunteering. Those physical and mental ailments that tend to plague older adults are often alleviated or even outright healed through the helping of others.

Despite these self interested aspects of volunteering, volunteers deserve all of the gratitude that we can heap upon them, because at the end of the day, altruism underlies the vast majority of their efforts, and without them all of us would be living in a much poorer world.

Thank a volunteer today, and if you have a few minutes to spare in your busy day, ask how you can join their ranks. You may soon find that you get more out of volunteering than those you seek to help.

As for The Expositor and its staff, to all of you from all of us, a heartfelt thank you and keep up the great work. You are appreciated.