Each and every one of us has something of value to offer our community. It has been true throughout our history. In fact, the words of Winston S. Churchill still echo today: “We made a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

By lending our time, expertise and muscle as a volunteer, we create impact for people, but also for the nonprofits driving these programs. Without volunteers, many community programs and initiatives would never thrive, let alone survive. In a national survey conducted by Deloitte, 75% of nonprofits describe volunteers as a critical component of their business model.

The list of ways to give back are endless—from serving on boards, raking leaves, delivering meals, repairing a home, serving as a tutor/mentor and so much more. The impact is as visible as it is measurable.

But have you ever stopped to think about the ways that volunteering transform us? One of our family values whenever we faced a personal struggle, was investing time in helping someone else. It always helped to gain perspective and peace. What I’ve learned is there is great deal of science behind that.

Mayo Clinic and Harvard have both studied the health benefits of volunteering. One of the key findings was volunteers who sacrifice their time to help others are 44% less likely to die early. Beyond living longer, volunteering improves our overall physical and mental health. The study showed lower rates of depression and anxiety and that helping others releases dopamine, which increases positive feelings and a sense of meaning.

Serving others also provides a sense of purpose. Learning something new and even mastering something you’ve never tried, can help your self-esteem soar. And the increased social interaction working alongside others builds new friendships and strengthens bonds. It also keeps us active, which is vitally important as we age. The Harvard study found that regular volunteers were 12% more likely to be frequently physically active than those who did not help others.

Volunteering is good for our physical and mental health, but it is also a good business practice. Many local organizations provide paid volunteer hours to their teams, which has shown to increase employee morale and personal satisfaction. In addition, a recent article from SHRM, they shared that employees—especially younger workers—say they prefer to work for organizations with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). The ability to volunteer, builds strong relationships with co-workers, promotes retention while also helping employees get involved in activities they are interested in and love.

So where do you start? United Way is working with local nonprofits to better understand their needs and find ways to bring the community together to fill those needs. Coming in June, they will be featuring a Days of Action with volunteer service projects aligned with early childhood education and childcare. Details will be coming in May. In the meantime, they have an easy-to-navigate link to explore volunteer opportunities that are updated with new items weekly. Visit volunteerglbr.org today to start your volunteer journey. A few examples of current opportunities are below.

FRIENDLY CONNECTIONS | United Way of Midland County
A sense of belonging is a basic human need, just like food and shelter.  We are social creatures and we all benefit from feeling connected, heard and appreciated by others.  It improves our health and increases our happiness. Friendly Connections is a community program that builds a bridge to belonging by pairing up community members and helping them connect for 2-3 hours a month by phone.

In a Miracle Field game, each athlete is offered a Buddy, someone who assists athletes on the field as they bat, run the bases and field the ball, allowing parents and caretakers to cheer from the bleachers. Being a Miracle Field Buddy is a rewarding experience which puts you directly on the Miracle League diamond, working one-on-one with a player.

SPRING CLEAN | Big Brothers Big Sisters of the GLBR
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region is seeking volunteers or groups to help us with spring cleanup at our Midland office. Some of our needs include: landscape cleanup and raking, tending flower beds and pruning plants, sweeping sidewalks and walkways, cleaning windows, siding and more.

Deliver meals and a smile to the homes of eligible older adults in Midland County. As a Meals on Wheels driver you will be providing Midland County seniors with a nutritious meal and a wellness check. Due to our vulnerable population, we do not take court appointed community service volunteers and currently we are only accepting fully vaccinated volunteer.

BARTON DYSLEXIA READING TUTOR | The Legacy Center for Community Success
Our programs help learners develop specific skills and build individual confidence. We foster a love of learning and community relationships based on grit, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Volunteer tutors meet with one learner two hours a week. Twelve hours of training are provided as well as all tutoring materials. Volunteers must complete a background check.  A one-year commitment is preferred. Training and tutoring takes place in person or online depending on individual preference and schedule.

 For more opportunities visit volunteerglbr.org