If you think about it, volunteering has gotten a bad rap over the years. An image of Abbot and Costello comes to mind in which Bud Abbot steps backwards leaving poor old Lou hanging out in front as the lone volunteer. However, the truth is volunteering is not only good for a specific cause; it’s also good for the volunteer.
Yes, believe it or not, there are numerous studies that point to volunteering being good for one’s mental and physical health. Not only that, it fills a resume. In this fast changing world, it seems being prepared for employment is more daunting than it was when I was a teenager, and every bit of experience helps.
“Volunteering increases many soft-skills that many employers are looking for in the workforce,” said executive director of Volunteer Tennessee Jim Snell. “Employers are looking for someone who is reliable and can finish projects.”
Of course, volunteering is good for the community, as well. As a staff member of the United Way of Wilson County, I can preach about the value of our 40 local allocations volunteers who decide what partner programs to financially support. On a state level, the data is even more impressive.
Results from the most recent survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service, said nearly 1.3 million people volunteered in Tennessee contributing 171.4 million hours of service. This amounts to $3.8 billion of service, which benefits Tennesseans. That means, a lot of services that you and I didn’t have to pay for through taxes.
We are known as the Volunteer State. However, our state ranks 37th among the 50 states with 24.8 percent of our residents volunteering for some cause. Snell explained volunteering itself has changed a bit over the years.
Where volunteer efforts used to be passed along by word of mouth, now potential volunteers can sign up for any number of causes at dozens of Internet sites. UWWC is partners with 211, for example, which not only helps to locate help for residents, it’s also a great place to sign up to volunteer for something close to one’s heart.
“I don’t think it’s getting harder,” Snell said about getting volunteers. “The younger generation wants different things from their volunteer experience. They enjoy doing things that are more social. They want to do things with their friends.”
Such volunteering allows for development of and the application of skills in technology and the ability to socialize as large groups.
“They don’t tend to volunteer by themselves on a week-to-week basis,” Snell said of younger volunteers.
Snell recently spoke, along with other state leaders, at the Governors Volunteer Star Awards Program in which two of our residents, Katlin Dickson and Nelson “Greg” Armstrong were honored. Listening to the achievements of volunteers across the state is humbling to say the least, but energizing, too.
One generation might volunteer for a different reason than another. Some may expect different experiences from their volunteer work, but one thing is constant and that is the sense of satisfaction that results from lending one’s skills, talents and heart to a cause.
John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.