In this season of giving, what better gift can you give than to help others? Volunteers most often get back more than they give while helping others.
From personal experience, I can promise you that you won’t regret it. I’ve been volunteering for more than 20 years, and it has enriched my life in countless ways. I understand more clearly how I want to live my life, and I have a deeper knowledge of those whose lives are far different than mine. It has made me more tolerant, compassionate and, more than anything, respectful of others.
Santa Barbara is one of the most generous and giving communities in which I have ever lived. There is no shortage of people willing to give of themselves. Here are some ways in which we can become involved.
Ways to Volunteer
» Help an Elderly Neighbor by taking out his or her trash cans or helping with the lawn.
» Spend some of your holiday time at Soup Kitchens for the Homeless. You can donate food items, pick up donated food, serve food, prepare it or offer administrative assistance. It takes a lot of people to put together something like a soup kitchen and keep it running!
» Participate in Holiday Toy Drives.
» Volunteer at the Hospital. You could sit at reception and greet people or deliver flowers to patient rooms; every hospital is different and needs volunteers.
» Help out at School. Schools always need help with reading to children, assisting on field trips, preparing bulletin boards or just helping the teacher. You’ll have to go through a background check, but that’s a good thing because it keeps criminals and predators away from children.
» Be a Mentor (my favorite). Not every child has the perfect home life. There are those who have only one parent, live with grandparents or even with foster families. Mentoring a child can make an amazing difference in the life of a child. The Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse has a great program called Fighting Back for Mentors. Organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters or even the Boys & Girls Club are excellent ways to volunteer as a mentor. Again, you will have to undergo a background check before you can volunteer as a mentor, but it's all to keep the children safe.
» Work at Church. Most churches don't turn a profit, so they rely heavily on volunteers. You can volunteer at church by offering to work in the day-care room, teach a Sunday school class, organize a church function, clean the church, and much more. Contact an official of the church to find out how you can help.
» Deliver Meals. Most communities sponsor a Meals on Wheels service, which is where volunteers are needed to deliver meals to the elderly. Not only will you deliver a hot meal, but you are offering the warmth of companionship to elderly people who are sometimes very lonely individuals.
»Help with Hospice. This isn’t for everyone. It can be emotionally draining. If you do decide to do this, you may be the one person on whom the family of a patient relies. This might involve visiting patients or family, offering child care, or running to the grocery store. Basically, you will be doing simple tasks that wouldn’t get done otherwise.
» Work at an Animal Shelter. Being around animals is a great way to lower your blood pressure, stress levels and make you feel good. If you’re an animal lover, this could be for you. They are always looking for people to walk dogs, feed the animals and clean up after them as well as find them forever homes.
» Foster a Pet. Animal rescue groups need people to foster pets until they can find forever homes. In addition, many military personnel need people to take their pets while they are in service.
» Get involved with Coats for Kids. This organization wants to ensure that every child who needs a winter coat receives one. Click here for more information.
Remember, one person can make a difference! Take one or several of the various ways to volunteer in your community that are listed above and get involved. It will do wonders for your self-esteem and give you a clearer insight in how you might want to live your own life. And, you will help others in more ways than you can know! Remember, it’s all about kindness and respect!
(Carol McKibben video)
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— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.