It’s National Volunteer Week, which is a good time to dispel some common misconceptions about volunteering. Here are a few:
It is tough to find time to volunteer. If you have a lunch hour, you have time to volunteer. Head to a nearby school to read with children, or tutor a struggling student in math. If that's too time-consuming, just walk down the hall at work. Your local United Way can organize on-site volunteering to build kits – such as school supply backpacks, and hygiene or literacy kits – to distribute to elementary schools, shelters and families who may not have many books at home.
Volunteering will add stress to my life. Actually, working with or for others, staying active and expanding your worldview adds up to a healthier lifestyle. There is a significant correlation between volunteering and good health.
Volunteering is dirty work that no one else will do. Sure, sometimes people paint school walls and plant gardens, but they also help make critical decisions as board members or grant reviewers. Professionals, like engineers and scientists, can put their skills to use through programs like STEM in the Schoolyard, a fun and rewarding way to help close the STEM gap for students.
You have to be present to make a difference. Virtual volunteering – like online tutoring programs – connects people to organizations and their beneficiaries. Using our own online platform, United Way Worldwide has helped companies give their employees the ability to write a note of encouragement to students, veterans or other groups who need support.
Volunteering takes time away from family. When you bring the kids along to volunteer, you strengthen family bonds, instill empathy and create wonderful memories. This past fall at United Way of Buffalo & Erie County families came together to pack 40,000 nonperishable meals for people in need.
Problems are so big; I can’t make much of a difference. This week, United Way of Miami-Dade is offering a range of activities in which volunteers will see the differences they’ve made. Volunteers will create a lending library at an early childhood development center, engage adults with dementia in socialization and music activities, and build a sensory garden for people with disabilities.
Volunteering is thankless work. National Volunteer Week is our time to thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, brains and brawn to causes they care about in their community and around the world. THANK YOU for stepping up – in person, online, with coworkers and your family. Thank you for showing what it means to LIVE UNITED.