TIS THE SEASON TO VOLUNTEER
No matter what religious practices you observe, or don’t observe, the holiday season tends to be a time of giving – and giving back. Did you know that volunteering is not only good for others – and good for you as well? We’ve got some ideas for volunteering as a family, and the reasons it matters.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
There are a number of very good reasons to volunteer, and it turns out that one of the good
reasons is that volunteering helps the volunteer as well as the recipients.
ACCORDING TO THE CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL & COMMUNITY SERVICE, THERE ARE MANY HEALTH BENEFITS TO VOLUNTEERING.
- There is a strong relationship between volunteering and health. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
- Older volunteers (60+) are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering.
- Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose as people contribute to the “greater good” in society.
- Volunteers report higher levels of happiness, life-satisfaction, self-esteem and a sense of control over life.
- People with chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability when they volunteer.
- There appears to be a “volunteering threshold.” A certain amount of volunteering is necessary to achieve the health benefits, and beyond that threshold additional benefits don’t seem to accrue. That threshold level is approximately 100 hours per year – or two hours per week.
Plus, volunteering as a family has additional benefits. You gain quality family time, strengthen bonds when you share the experience, give all family members an opportunity to lead and increase the family commitment to volunteering and your community.
A FAMILY OF VOLUNTEERS
If you’d like to volunteer as a family, there are a number of activities you can do, several of which are related to the military.
- Active children activities. If you have an active child, keep them busy planting bulbs in a community garden or restocking food pantry shelves.
- Senior center projects. For kids who want one-on-one time, visit seniors at a nursing home where they can chat with seniors or make art projects together. If you’ve got a kid who enjoys being on center stage, that same senior center can be a place for your child to play an instrument, sing a song or read aloud to appreciative seniors.
- 30 Days of Kindness Challenge. As a family you can kick start a kindness habit that just might stick around for a lifetime. If 30 days sounds a tad overwhelming, you can either remind yourself that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit or be kind to yourself and commit your family to one week instead. Make one (or more) of those “kindness” days a volunteer day.
- UNICEF’s Tap Project. There is a website that tracks your inactive phone time and provides inspiring notes to raise awareness about the 768 million people who lack access to clean water. A parent could challenge a teen – or a family could challenge another family. Place a bet that can serve as a donation to UNICEF’s worthy cause.
- Volunteer at your local Air Force Base. Nearly every base has opportunities for individuals to get involved.
- Volunteer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Museum volunteers hosted one million on-site visitors in 2014. The museum had four million online visitors during the year. You can be a “virtual” volunteer.
- Volunteer for veterans. The Wounded Warriors Project is one organization, and there are many more. The VA for example, had more than 140,000 volunteers who gave more than 11 million hours in service to America’s Veterans. You can still involve children in these activities. For example, if you’re driving a wounded vet to a doctor’s appointment, bring a child with you to chat with the vet, while you role model volunteerism.
When you are deciding which organization for which to volunteer, keep in mind that some organizations give a higher percentage of their funds to the programs they manage. For example, the Wounded Warrior projects gives 59.9% of the funds raised to programs whereas the Disabled American Veterans gives 96.5% of funds raised to programs and UNICEF contributes 90.2% to programs. This website helps you see how your favorite organization stacks up. Just type the organization name into the large search bar.