“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something” – Max Lucado
These days, it is almost too easy to get caught up in the materialistic drive of the holiday season and forget what it’s really about. In order to avoid this, I try to find local ways to give back to the community. In the process of helping others, I’m reminded of the true spirit of Christmas. Volunteering is a humbling, eye-opening experience and there are a few reasons why I think you should give it a second thought as we approach the holidays.
1. Helping others
This is the obvious one. You are making a difference in someone else’s life and leaving a positive mark on your community.
2. Get connected
Volunteering locally will strengthen your tie to the community as you develop a heightened sense of purpose and meet people you normally wouldn’t meet.
3. New skills
While volunteering, you may pick up a few new skills that may be useful in other areas of your life (such as with jobs). You may also discover talents you didn’t know you had.
4. Health benefits
It’s often said that you help yourself while helping others. It’s true, because volunteering can make positive dents in your physical, mental, and even emotional health. Knowing that you are doing good in your community can boost your confidence and self-esteem, while getting rid of the high stress that often accompanies the holidays.
The benefits to volunteering certainly do not stop here, but those are just a few that I wanted to highlight. If you’re convinced and want to know how to get involved, check out these five websites I recommend in order to find volunteer opportunities in your community:
VolunteerMatch: “We bring good people and good causes together.”
Register for free on this website and instantly get connected with causes you care about (animals, arts, human rights, homeless, literacy, youth, hunger, environmental, educational, etc.). It provides an easy-to-use database where you can search local opportunities based on the cause, organization, distance, and date posted. Another great feature is that you can search virtual opportunities, if you don’t have the time to volunteer in-person. Update your personal profile and VolunteerMatch will recommend local opportunities that fit your interests.
Idealist: “No opportunities for action or collaboration are missed or wasted.”
Idealist provides advanced search options, where you can browse opportunities based on the area of focus, time of day/week, duration, time commitment, and language. Also, narrow the search by your interests, skills, organizations, and preferred location. A neat aspect of this site is that it allows you to choose how you want to get involved in your community. It provides options for on-going volunteer opportunities, one-time events, and fundraisers.
The Salvation Army: “Doing the most good.”
In the U.S., there are more than 7,546 centers that rely on the help of volunteers to continue to positively impact the lives of others. The site lists specific ways you can help the organization, including donating money, time, or tangible items (clothing, furniture, etc.). Search by zip code or city and state to find a Salvation Army center nearest you and a need that you can help fulfill. The Salvation Army is typically known for the Red Kettle bell ringing that runs through the holiday season. This is just one of the many ways that you can get involved.
HandsOn Network: “We inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.”
Search by a keyword (of the type of opportunity you’re looking for) and zip code. HandsOn Network also directs you to Volunteer Action Centers in your area (over 250 worldwide), where you can become better connected with current volunteer efforts. The action centers work with organizations and leaders of the community to serve where needed. HandsOn Network also provides you with the tools and direction if you are looking to start your own action center.
All for Good: “All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good.”
Use the search engine on All for Good to find service opportunities with national and local organizations. You can search opportunities by local, statewide, and virtual, as well as narrow the search by category and provider. Search results provide a brief description of the opportunity as well as a link to the source. All for Good provides free access to a large database of 150,000 listings each month.