About three weeks ago, I received an unsolicited email from a young man who got my name from the library. His message explained that he would begin work in September in DC, and he wanted to fill his time before he began work. We made an appointment for him to meet the class, and he begin that day working with the civics class. I asked him if he would need a letter of recommendation and was blown away when he said he volunteers because he wants to fill his time productively.
For some, volunteer is a four letter word to most people. When an immigrant comes into the office looking for employment, I suggest they volunteer some where until they find a paid position. They look at me as if I posses two heads and question WHY they should work anywhere for free. Internally I epic eye-roll and then explain that volunteering is like test driving a vehicle. What if you make the purchase and later realize an SUV is too much power on the road? That’s being a volunteer in a nutshell. Plus there’s the karma piece which I’ll get into later.
Volunteering is not just for immigrants. If I had to guesstimate, I get five parents weekly who come into my office because they heard “we give jobs”. After I explain that my focus is immigrants and I provide a list of places that others have been successful with obtaining employment, they confide that they really want their children to do more than laze about playing videos games. I usually point them to the library and tell them to see if they can volunteer there. Again I get the look, ad I break it down. Some libraries have their young adult patrons volunteer, then they are the top choices when summer positions become available. Think about it, would you take a chance on a someone from a glance of a resume or would you pick the person you’ve worked with for the past few months?
That was how I obtained my second volunteer. Miss Carrie and I connected by accident when she tried to register her grandson for school and realized she was in the wrong place. It was one of those days when The Boy was hanging in the office, helping out with the current leader lesson while I spoke to Miss Carrie. When she saw The Boy helping, she asked if her grandson could come in and help also. Adding my niece Bubbles! to the trifecta, I now have three helpers who help themselves to water, lunch, and WiFi. They do pitch in when needed, and because I’m still trying to find things they can really help with, I still believe I’m cultivating a behavior of giving back.
Being a volunteer is beneficial for both the person volunteering and the organization that receives the assistance. Volunteering can provide a boost to self-esteem, especially when a person is job searching, new to the country, or experiencing the blues. When you volunteer, helping others gives you the warm fuzzies and that translates to feeling better about yourself. It’s also reap what you sew. I volunteered for my current employer prior to getting my current gig. I was also a pest, asking weekly if anything was available, and applying for anything from meter reader to jail custodian (desperate times call for desperate measures!). I believe the main reason I was given the job was because I was the right fit, I had proved myself to be dependable, and my commitment to volunteering showed that I was a hard worker with or without pay. As a volunteer, you go good for others and your community which can give you a sense of pride and identity.
I didn’t always have a spirit of volunteering. I used to think it was a four letter word my darn self. Volunteering usually meant getting up at WTF O’clock so I could deal with grabby and rude people. Volunteering meant seeing the worst side of people. People lose all sense of decency when there is an opportunity for free anything. It could be a pen, and a person will become all hands grabbing. I realized that I was not cut out for all types of volunteering. I’m better suited for administrative work, because people can irk. I’m suited to small doses of children, like the sporadic assistance I give The Mister with scouts. I’m suited for cheering on racers in a race because it helps their momentum. I’m suite to work with hungry adults. Adult who WANT to learn, not an adult who is forced to learn to read or speak English.
The word voluntold was coined by a scout parent. Some parents think BSA stand for Baby Sitters Association rather than Boy Scouts of America. The parent, who we dubbed Sarge, would tell people to do certain task rather than wait for them to volunteer or respond to a message. During the time that Sarge was part of the pack, it was one of the most lucrative periods.
The kids of my family understand that at any point that they could be tapped to be a voluntold at any minute. Whether it’s door to door campaign work, entertaining the children of immigrants during an evening workshop, or manning my table at the community event. They also have to find a cause that interests them and find a way to fit it in their schedule. The Boy works with a writing program, helping with video game design. The Teen is like me at her age, all “I am woman hear me roar!”. I now understand why my mom would have a fit when I worked as an escort at abortion clinics. Protestors be tripping.
— PhillyBoysWriteNow (@PhillyBoysWrite) August 7, 2015
How to Get Involved
There are many places that need a hand. In Upper Darby, the Literacy Council is always looking for tutors. Christ Lutheran Church needs help with food distribution on Friday mornings. If interaction with people isn’t your thing, The Upper Darby Food Bank needs people to help with stocking shelves and organizing donations. Knowing how beneficial my time at the library was when I was between jobs, I highly recommend them as a place to offer your services. My sister could always use an extra set of hands to weed old books, prep crafts, or assist with story time.
Perhaps those aren’t your ideas of places to volunteer. Volunteer Match has dozens of places that need YOU. Check them out.
Once you start to volunteer, you’ll wonder why it took you so long.