by Natalie Martinez
Winston Churchill is known for saying, “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” According to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the verb “volunteer” is to “freely offer to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.” Unfortunately, this rarely happens in today’s society. Instead, people regularly think in a way that asks “How can this act benefit me?” Volunteering encompasses civic duty, several benefits, and enhancing an individual’s personal experience.
Therefore, volunteering can be done at any age. However, I personally believe it is best to start at a young age. Also, it’s great for America’s youth to begin participating in civic duty, such as volunteering young, since they are not yet able to vote or be a part of jury duty. Overall, volunteering is a great way to give back to the community. I specifically urge all high school students to volunteer not only because it is a requirement to graduate, but because of the many things you can learn by volunteering that help better prepare you for the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4% for the year ending in September 2013. The Bureau also states that “The volunteer rate in 2013 was the lowest it has been since the supplement was first administered in 2002.” Together, we can ensure that this low volunteer rate is never a matter of fact again.
A few of the many benefits of volunteering include learning new skills, such as communication, along with gaining a sense of motivation and achievement. Also, although this might sound a bit cliché to some, but there truly is a “feel-good feeling” you receive after completing a service project. New experiences, such as creating a vegetable garden, are very common to undergo while volunteering. However, many people prefer learning more about an impact area or organization that interests them as compared to one that does not. For example, if a person is interested in becoming a vet, then that person should begin volunteering at an animal shelter or hospital. This would not only help the person gain experience, but also guide the person as to whether or not it is the correct field of study for them. By volunteering, I have met a variety of people. In fact, I still keep in contact with many people who I have met through volunteering; some have even become mentors and life-long friends to me. Lastly, you boost your career opportunities by volunteering. Recent surveys conducted by TimeBank reveal that 73% of employers would hire an individual with volunteering experience over one without, and 94% of employers believe that volunteering can be added to skills on a résumé.
Attending a religious school during my early school years, I was taught the importance of giving back to the community and helping others. Everyone from teachers, coaches, the office staff, and head of school greatly influenced me. Through volunteering I have personally experienced many unique opportunities. Last summer, I began volunteering with a local politician. Through this unique experience, I was able to meet people I wouldn’t have met any other way, and learned about several career options that may interest me in the future. Also, I am currently assisting this politician as a volunteer in his re-election campaign. A few of the tasks that I completed last summer and am currently completing include writing proclamations, attending Commission Meetings and public hearings, and inputting candidate petition data. Volunteering with HandsOn Broward, which is the largest non-profit volunteer agency in Broward County, has also exposed me to many unique experiences that have helped shaped me into the person I am today. In fact, there is a full-time employee at HandsOn Broward who is their Chief Financial Officer, and this gentleman has worked for them for years now, but has never accepted a single paycheck from the agency. The reason for this is because he is a dedicated volunteer, along with his wife who also volunteers at a non-profit agency full-time. This is a perfect example that illustrates the fact that any person at any age can volunteer. A few of the many opportunities that I have experienced through HandsOn Broward include meeting Florida Governor Rick Scott, learning about the environment, participating and co-facilitating in leadership classes, becoming a project leader, and assisting the homeless, elderly, mentally handicapped, and pre-school age children. Another organization that I have worked with is named Bit by Bit, which is a therapeutic riding center for mentally and physically disabled children and veterans. By volunteering, I have had the opportunity to witness fellow volunteers grow socially and mentally.
It is because of all these experiences and benefits that volunteering is important not only for personal development, but for the good of the community. Therefore, I highly urge everyone to volunteer. If you do not have time, make a goal for yourself that you will begin volunteering at least once a month or more. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “The work of volunteer groups throughout our country represents the very heart and soul of America. They have helped make this the most compassionate, generous, and humane society that ever existed on the face of this earth.” Case in point, you, the volunteer, are in fact the heart and soul of America.