Every year, thousands of people donate their time and energy without asking for a single penny. They volunteer.
April is National Volunteer Month, a month dedicated to celebrating and encouraging those who donate their time and energy every day to helping those in need. In 1974, President Nixon decreed that April 21 – 27 would be National Volunteer Week, and later April became the official month of celebrating volunteers.
In 2012, in the United States alone, almost 27 percent of the population spent time volunteering. US citizens donated an astounding 7.85 billion hours of time in 2012. The time and expertise donated is valued at an estimated $173 billon.
Among college students, in 2012, around 28.7 percent of the population volunteered their time in some way. Students frequently volunteer as part of classwork.
“I volunteered at Willow Valley [Retirement Community] for a class, and I feel like I gained a lot, like a better understand of my elders, they taught me a lot,” said MU undergrad Dana, who asked that her last name not be printed.
At Millersville, there is Volunteer Central. Volunteer Central is all about engaging MU students in their community. Students have the option of doing service learning, community service, work study or scholarship programs, or community organization.
These days, many companies and corporations encourage employees to engage in volunteering, which is increasing long-term volunteering. Many companies have specific charities they donate their time and money to (i.e. breast cancer awareness, St. Jude’s, or children in need).
One of the best things about volunteering is the diversity in the options. There is an opportunity for everyone interested in volunteering. Some great ways to get started:
• Food bank: Ask your local food bank what items they are in need of. Then see if friends or family are willing to help you donate, or go door to door and ask your neighbors for donations.
• Animal shelter: Animal lovers can put their love for furry creatures to use and volunteer their time helping at a local shelter.
• Nursing home: Oftentimes volunteers at nursing homes are just spending time with the residents, getting to know them, playing games or reading.
• Habitat for Humanity: HFH has chapters in both Lancaster and right at MU. For those who don’t mind working with their hands, this is a great way to help those in need.
• Political campaign: It doesn’t matter how you’re registered to vote. If you back a candidate, don’t hesitate to offer your time and energy to helping put them in office.
• Work with children: There are many charitable organizations dedicated to making children’s lives better. Whether you want to tutor struggling students or mentor a child, there are many opportunities.
• Coaching: If you love football or tennis, put your love of the game to good use. Any sport you enjoy playing, pass on your passion to the next generation.
Even just donating a few hours a week volunteering to any charity you feel passionate about can make a huge impact in your community.