It’s that time of the year when giving thanks and giving back seem to be popular discussion topics. While it is wonderful, why not make it a year-round occurrence? There are an incredible amount of opportunities out there that need someone like you to occasionally lend a hand. If you’re looking for a way to give back to an organization or cause you support, there are many things you can do. If the role doesn’t exist, create it.
As an avid volunteer since childhood, I spent time helping out at various hospitals, Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels in Buffalo, NY and as of last November, Long Beach, CA. Last year I found myself wanting to do more with my week and the thought of volunteering resurfaced after a bit of a hiatus. As life seems to get busier, we often yearn for more time, and even though that’s not quite possible, don’t let that deter you from doing things that you want.
After spending some time researching local organizations, I noticed that many interesting opportunities and important causes I support needed help during hours that I could not step out of work for. Beach and park clean ups were held on weekends I was away, soup kitchens were serving at hours when I had weekly client meetings, animal rescues weren’t taking new volunteers, and so forth, which left me feeling discouraged. I wanted to help, somehow, somewhere, but this scheduling gauntlet was making it quite a challenge.
There HAD to be something out there I could do. Then it dawned on me. What if instead, I could volunteer my skills and incorporate it into my schedule? A few more searches later, I was thrilled to see Meals on Wheels of Long Beach (MOWLB) pop up in the search results. And even better, it was only a 3 minute drive from my home. After spending some time volunteering at Meals on Wheels back in Buffalo and having a wonderful experience, this was a no brainer. I emailed them right away and asked if I could lend a hand in the kitchen packing meals for delivery routes from time to time and if I could offer my marketing services, pro bono. Not long after I sent off the initial email, I got a call and got started the following week. Coincidentally, this month marks one year being a part of the MOWLB family. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really outstanding people (volunteers, staff, and home-bound community members) from all walks of life, learned a lot about non-profits as a whole, attended board meetings, got to help pack meals for delivery, and go on delivery routes as a “friendly-visitor”. The people, holistically speaking, are the best part of the experience. While I’m unable to help in person as much as I would like to, the marketing related volunteer work has been able to fill that void. It’s been such a delight getting to build their online presence through social media marketing, advertising, and email marketing efforts. Not only do I get to give back and help their organization expand its reach and visibility online, I get to do what I am passionate about, all for a great cause. Not to mention, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings.
Some of my favorite memories with MOWLB in this past year were when we had the Long Beach Fire Department come in to help deliver meals with us. It was really wonderful that they dedicated time to help us, delivered meals and flowers (thank you for the surprise flower donations each week, Trader Joes!), and helped check in on our clients to make sure they are safe, healthy, and smiling in their homes. What a great crew! We had a really fun time that day. I also particularly enjoyed interviewing a bunch of our volunteers during National Volunteer month and sharing their stories on our social channels. We’re lucky to have such terrific people come in through our doors to lend a hand. They not only are a delight to volunteer with and learn from, each of them are inspiring in so many ways.
Volunteering has not only been rewarding in the aspect of giving back and inducing smiles, but it has gifted me in return by introducing me to my neighbors, has taught me more about life through stories that were shared, it put me in touch with other businesses, has provided an opportunity to work in the non-profit sector, and most of all, I feel much more connected to my community.
If you are looking for a way to lend a hand or your skills if scheduling poses a conflict, reach out to an organization that excites you and ask how you can help. Whether you’re in the restaurant business, business development, marketing, advertising, event planning, sales, grant writing, construction, or something else entirely, if you can apply it, start a conversation.
If you are particularly interested in getting involved with Meals on Wheels, they have locations available across the US and in many countries around the globe. Also, since Meals on Wheels of Long Beach is near and dear to my heart, if you would like to volunteer at one of our three locations, please join me in doing so or we would also greatly appreciate your help. If you can, please donate. Your contribution will help provide fresh, hot, delicious, and nutritious meals to veterans, senior citizens, and other home-bound community members.
If you previously have or currently do volunteer somewhere that is looking for additional volunteers, please leave a comment below and how readers can get in touch. Thank you!