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Volunteering can change lives, communities

April 20, 2012

Each month is known for something, though it’s not always widely known. April is known for rain. April showers bring May flowers; the adage reflects how April is a month of replenishing the Earth after the winter; however, that’s not the only thing being replenished. Communities are flourishing around this time as well.

As the weather gets warmer in April, more people go out and about. Just walking or driving through town makes it easy for people to see what and where they can volunteer in the community, which is why April is National Volunteer Month.

In 1974, Nixon created the first National Volunteer Week, though its popularity has led to a whole month being dedicated towards it. Each year the amount people volunteer has increased and will continue to as more become aware of the wide spread benefits and versatility found in volunteering.

Volunteering is a great benefit to communities. They become better places to live, more diverse and welcoming as volunteers work hard to help with upkeep and start various programs. Everyone has different ideas to contribute, so holding back because you’re sure someone else will do it is not the route to take. A run-down community just needs someone to care in order to turn it right side up again.

As Dr. Seuss teaches in “The Lorax,” “Unless someone like you cares a whole, awful lot. Things aren’t going to get better, they’re not!” Once people begin to pitch in, things start to change for the better, encouraging more to join in, leading to a whole new result.

The volunteer also receives great benefits beyond a better community. They learn that volunteering means more than recognition. When you help, you learn something new and form connections, with the people you are helping and the covolunteers.

The strong ties that are formed can be drawn on in the future when you need help. Someone you volunteer with may become your best friend.

Improved physical and mental health is two more great results one can achieve. In a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering was found to increase life expectancy and ability to function while lowering depression and heart disease. These incentives are great, but in many instances individuals find they don’t have time for volunteering.

Finding time for volunteering is a lot simpler than at first glance. One of the great aspects of volunteering is the many ways in which it can be accomplished. If you don’t have an easy schedule choose a one-time event to help out. Not all volunteering opportunities are a long-term commitment.

Many organizations are searching for volunteers who can lend their time for a mere half-hour or 45 minutes. These can range from once to multiple times a week. Usually with volunteering, you get to choose where you volunteer, controlling what you’d be doing and when you’re available.

There are many resources out there to aid you in your search for the right place to volunteer. A portion of the Student Life page, found on the University website, titled “Current Agency Needs” provides students with a place they can browse opportunities to volunteer. The agency’s mission statement is provided as well as their specific volunteer opportunities, including dates and times and contact information.

Challenge yourself to volunteer for a different organization than you’re familiar with once for the month of April and you may find you enjoy it so much that you want to volunteer some more.

Fit it in wherever you can and be proud of yourself, knowing any amount has an impact. Be the April showers that bring May growth to your community.

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.