Giving is Gaining

The Scout Troop, the church, the PTA, the Neighborhood Association, the school – always going on about needing volunteers. Yeah yeah sure, yada yada yada. I’m too busy, you’re too busy… right?  No, not right!  Our neighborhood is rich in the volunteer spirit and we see it every day. Still there is always more to do, more that can be done to make life better. As with breathing, eating, and loving, the need doesn’t go away.  

Benefits of Volunteering

Wait, benefits? Who said anything about benefits? Isn’t volunteering the selfless giving of your time and talents?  Wouldn’t it be kind of cheating to do it because it benefits you?  Our neighbor Ken Fischer explored this phenomenon in a recent set of articles on Selfish Altruism.1 So now, if we’re all paying attention, the secret is out. The dirty little secret: the best volunteers do it because it benefits them. They get enjoyment, and satisfaction, and fulfillment, and even better health out of volunteering.

Volunteers at Joy’s Kitchen, right here in our Southern Gables neighborhood

Yes, better health! The beneficial effects of volunteering have been studied by the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, and others.2 3 The findings are good for anyone, even people who already have too much to do. Not only that, but this is important too: the best time to go after it is not “maybe next month.”

The best time is now. 

Community. Working together is what makes it great.

Volunteering decreases the risk of depression, especially for older adults. This one is pretty easy to see: getting outside of yourself does wonders. Social interaction and the support of others engaged in a productive activity can reduce or forestall depression-related triggers.

Reduction in stress levels. Building networks and social interaction can mitigate or outright alleviate stress. The sense of meaning and appreciation that comes from positive interaction with others can have a stress-reducing effect, and reducing stress reduces risk of illness. 

Meeting new people and developing new relationships, by participating in shared activities together, helps you sharpen and maintain social skills. The network you build in sharing common interests can spill over into other areas of your life and lead to unanticipated benefits from relationships that would otherwise be unavailable. 

So now what?

Start with our local school, for example. That little gem of a school in the center of our neighborhood, Green Gables Elementary. The PTA stretches their resources and their members to do all kinds of good things that benefit the kids. Although the PTA membership is small, they accomplish a lot of good and, like breathing, the need never stops. They would love to have more involvement from the community at large. The PTA President, Robin Smith, put out a call to their members for people to volunteer on committees for recurring projects such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (hey, that’s fun!), getting shade structures and benches made for the campus for the community walking track, making school supply kits, putting on a Math Night and a Science Night, library promotions, and more. Here are some very direct opportunities to participate in some upcoming PTA projects that will benefit our kids.

January 30 – Math Night. The event is staffed but the committee is in need of food and drinks to be provided. Details and sign up: Math Night Support.

Open dates – After School Clubs. Parents and community members are invited (and needed) to organize and provide club activities for the students. Do you have a special interest, skill, talent you can share? Chess, crafts, reading, art? The first step is getting a committee together to organize and promote a good mix of club activities. You can sign up here: Committee for After School Clubs

Sometime in February – Bingo Night. Work with a few other people to set up a Bingo night. You might even take the opportunity to play!  Bingo Night Committee.

May 15 – End-of-Year Party. The party features a Silent Auction help to update technology in student classrooms. If you can serve on a committee to organize and run the event, Sign Up Here. If you have a business that can support the event by donating a product, a service, or something like a gift basket, gift cards or vouchers, you can skip the process of being sought out and asked: here is a link to a donation request letter so you can jump the line and get involved as a sponsor.  

More… There’s always more.

You can volunteer to serve on the Neighborhood Association Board, write these articles to share local ideas, events and stories for this blog, set up tables for our August Neighborhood Night Out, or do any of a long list of things that will benefit the community and make you feel good about it. We maintain a list of volunteer opportunities with local community organizations. Perhaps you’ve seen it. It’s here: Volunteer.  

As a final thought, on the theme of “Do Something!” here’s a favorite song of mine. Just a thought. Think. No, I actually mean, Do.

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  1. Selfish Altruism by Ken Fischer, December 1, 2023 and Part 2 December 8, 2023
  2. NIH (Abstract): Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms
  3. Atlantic Magazine, Dec 30, 2015: The Physiological Power of Altruism (Paywall but without a subscription you can read the intro for the key points.)

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