Why do people volunteer? Certainly helping others and making the world a better place are excellent reasons, but volunteers report countless others, including making new friends and gaining a sense of community. Indeed, what better way to meet people with similar interests? Volunteering can also provide a new purpose in life and be good for your mental and physical health too. Here, we talk to two longtime volunteers to get the inside scoop on what drives them to volunteer and what they get out of it.
Austie O’Malley – Soup Kitchen Extraordinaire
At age 77, Austie has been volunteering at his church’s soup kitchen for 28 years. “I volunteer now because I love the community we have and the need to help others,” he says, likening each evening’s service to a production. “Most people go to movies, plays and concerts to watch productions: all the above need a producer, director and cast! Our supper is just like that. We have a producer, director and cast (the volunteers).”
Austie says the audience – those served by the kitchen – are always very appreciative of the performance. “It’s not a one-man show; nearly 50 volunteers show up every night we serve,” he adds. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a production like this?”
Austie has also volunteered helping to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. “My advice,” he says, “find a place you can make a difference and show up.”
Peggy Jennings – Giver of all Things Digital
Now 66, Peggy has been volunteering most of her life. “A stroke left me unable to work even part time, but I am busier now than before, and I am doing what leaves me feeling alive,” she says.
It’s easy to see how Peggy stays busy. Among other things, she administers a Facebook page and website for a local photo club, and volunteers as a writer and editor for the national nonprofit StubbyDog.org – all things she can easily do from home on her computer.
“I have always found it more rewarding to work on things I care about,” Peggy says. “A mind in motion is more likely to maintain its ability, and doing something useful puts the life in your years.”
Over the years, Peggy has tried out many volunteer roles. “I have shoveled manure at the children’s zoo, motivated inmates in prison to stay sober, transported animals for adoptions in a nearby city and cleaned rabbit cages! Now, I am doing what I was best suited for all along – working on the words of others (editing) and writing. StubbyDog is encouraging me in a unique way. Because the cause is so dear to my heart, I’m satisfied in a wonderful way!” she says.
“If you aren’t sure what floats your boat, volunteer for special events with different organizations till you find the right one for you,” Peggy suggests.
Find Your Calling
If you’re interested in finding a new volunteer opportunity, the options are endless. These online tools allow you to search organizations looking for volunteers in your area:
Find something that interests you and give it a try! Remember, it’s OK to “shop around.” Once you discover a match, one thing is guaranteed: You won’t regret it.