Everywhere you look, organizations within your community need volunteers. From local animal shelters and food banks to music festivals and fun runs, most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on the goodwill of volunteers to keep funds focused on the core mission and reduce administrative costs. But are there more intrinsic benefits to giving of your time? Absolutely!
Why It Matters for Your Community
When you volunteer, you help shape the environment where you live. For example, in Sacramento County where Fair Oaks is located, more than 75,000 volunteers contributed six million hours of service since 2004 in initiatives and organizations such as:
- The 4-H agricultural program
- Information desk personnel at airports and hospitals
- Farm-to-Fork Festival and regional farmers’ markets
- First responder assistance training
- Midtown HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Program)
- Communities With Disabilities
- Animal shelters and foster rescues
- The Sacramento LGBTQ Community Center and Pride events
- Food banks and Meals on Wheels
- Foster Grandparents Program
- Hands On Sacramento
- SPIRIT physicians’ project
- Literacy tutor
- NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Event
- Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
- Boards and commissions
- Music teachers for underprivileged children
- Neighbor Helping Neighbor
- Wedding officiant
- Friends of the Sacramento Public Library
- Rock the Block Habitat for Humanity event
- Effie Yeaw Nature Center and other eco-centered programs
- Youth and senior services
Each community has specific needs, so this list highlights just a small sample of how volunteers power diverse and important efforts in a locality…and how great the potential is for you to become more involved in countless areas of interest.
Additionally, UC San Diego reports that the “estimated value of a volunteer’s time in California is $26.87 per hour.” While this civic investment varies across the nation, it demonstrates how it enables organizations within your community to support all its residents in times of need as well as foster a better way of life for everyone.
How Does Giving Back Help You?
For all the altruistic reasons to volunteer, this is one area of life where it’s okay to reap a few benefits from your selfless acts of service.
- Researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, have studied the positive impact of volunteerism for many years. Here are some of key findings:
- While giving back promotes happiness, you don’t have to be an eternal optimist to donate your time. In fact, “people who start off with a lower level of wellbeing may get an even bigger boost from volunteering.”
- “Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better.”
- “Volunteering appears to be intrinsically rewarding—when we help others, we tend to experience what researchers call a ‘warm glow.’”
- In addition to increasing happiness, volunteerism improves self-esteem, helps people develop better confidence, and creates an opening for defining a greater sense of purpose.
- According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies indicate that giving back improves your health by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Releasing natural “feel good” brain chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.
- Reducing cortisol, the stress hormone
- Speaking of healthy ways of coping with stress in recovery, the Mayo Clinic reports that “by spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.”
- Finally, participating in volunteerism with others provides vital social connections. It decreases loneliness and could potentially help you cultivate stronger relationships.
You don’t always need a special skill set to get started. Whether you volunteer regularly for a couple of hours each week or sign up to assist during special events throughout the year, most organizations offer training for key positions, so you’re also receiving an essential learning opportunity. The more knowledge you acquire bolsters other areas of your life, such as your career.
Choose Your Volunteer Path
NAMI offers these tips, which we provide verbatim, for deciding on the type of activism that matters most to you:
- Find your passion by creating a vision of how you want to change the world.
- Identify the unique gifts you can bring to this activism.
- Craft a unique activism opportunity ideally suited to you.
- Monitor your long-term effectiveness.
- Stay motivated and avoid burnout.
Remember, you don’t have to jump in all at once. It might take some time to define your purpose. But don’t let that stop you. Something simple, such as volunteering to lead occasional meetings at a recovery support group, is still playing a vital role in the improvement of your community.
Become Better With Help From Fair Oaks
As a member of the Fair Oaks community, you’ll receive the benefits of hands-on, evidence-based addiction rehabilitation, including a continuum of care plan that evolves as you do. As you discover more of what matters to you, you’re given more techniques to enrich your sober life. Talk to a member of our admissions team to learn more about how we dedicate our time and expertise to help you.