THE POWER OF VOLUNTEERISM

By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
I often say that I’m working harder now as a volunteer president of a board of directors than I ever did as a paid employee. The hours are long, the work can be frustrating, and worrying about keeping our doors open is very stressful. But all it takes is for me to hold a tiny, helpless little opossum in my hand or witness the release of an animal back to the wild and I know why I do it. A sense of calm and purpose takes over and I feel great about what I’m doing.

People volunteer for a number of reasons. Some are retired and are looking for something meaningful to do. Some are students wanting to learn more about their chosen field of study. Some feel it’s a way to pay it forward and some don’t have a choice. They have to complete court-ordered community service.

I think we would all agree that helping others makes a person feel good but did you know that studies show there are health benefits from volunteering?  According to Rodlescia Sneed, a public health research associate at Michigan State University who has studied the impacts of volunteering, “In my own work I’ve shown it’s linked to improvements in factors like depressive symptoms, purpose in life, and feelings of optimism.” It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and reduces the feelings of depression.

Here’s a list of all the benefits of volunteering according to Non-Profit Hub:

  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Expands your connections - some people are just born with the “gift of gab” and have no trouble talking to others. For those that tend to be shy, it’s the perfect opportunity to make new friends with people who share the same interests.
  • Makes you feel good
  • Contributes to a longer life - volunteers encounter greater longevity and less frequency of heart disease. It can also slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.
  • Gives purpose – as we age, we sometimes feel isolated but no matter who we are or what our age is, volunteering can give our lives new meaning.
  • Combats stress – studies actually show the more you volunteer, the happier you become. Your body releases dopamine in the brain when you help others. This has a positive effect on how you feel.
  • Sets a good example – as parents, our greatest hope is that our children grow up to be caring, giving adults. What better way to make that happen than to set a good example?
  • Teaches new skills – we see it all the time. Volunteers are afraid to pick up a bird, a squirrel or opossum. With encouragement and instruction, they gain confidence and learn not only to pick them up but to feed them. You can see the pride on their faces!

Don’t let fear stop you from volunteering. It’s very much like starting a new job and for those of you who work, you know how stressful that can be. Every non-profit knows how valuable volunteers are. Volunteers provide their time, energies and talents to help non-profits fulfill their missions. Most non-profits have limited budgets and volunteers are the reason many non-profits are able to operate and keep the bills paid.

The most important thing to remember is to do what interests you. Do you like working with senior citizens? The homeless? Dogs and cats? If you volunteer somewhere and find it’s not for you, keep looking until you find your passion.

If caring for injured, orphaned or displaced wildlife is of interest to you, please contact us. Maybe you don’t want to handle animals but would like to recruit fellow volunteers, work in fundraising or design brochures. We have many different areas where you can offer your time and talents. Give Berri a call at 713.468.8972.

You may also attend an informational session at our Center on the following dates. The sessions are free and will give you a lot of great information about rehabilitating wildlife.

To reserve your spot, call 713.468.8972.

Make a New Year’s resolution to volunteer. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how this will add to your life!

 

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