Volunteerism a powerful force for positive change

April 15-21 is recognized as Volunteer Appreciation Week. Volunteer and be the change.

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”

— Author Unknown.

When we think of volunteerism, it means something a little different to different people, but what is consistent is the commitment to helping others and the wide range of benefits associated with it.

There are three major beneficiaries of volunteerism. When you give your time, energy and heart to helping others, you are creating tiny moments of heroism — for the cause, your community and yourself.

The Cause: Volunteerism helps us tackle problems like the cycle of intergenerational poverty, hunger, isolation, mental and emotional crisis, homelessness and any type of conflict. As our social challenges grow, organizations are unable to meet the need. This is where volunteers are called to bridge the gap for the cause they support.

The Community: Volunteers help create a sense of community. Volunteering is a natural, effective and often fun way to build familiarity and bonds within groups and neighborhoods to effect change. It brings us together and makes us stronger and more resilient as a community.

The Volunteer: The benefit of volunteering to the individual has been studied extensively. The act of helping creates a sense of purpose and well-being that can uplift moods and emotions. Those studies have proven that when a person spends time helping others, they feel healthier, wealthier and even have a perception of more time available to them. The experience creates a sense of purpose and meaning that’s often missing in our daily lives. Anyone who has spent time volunteering will surely agree — helping others creates a synergy that is incredibly powerful and impactful long after the volunteer shift has ended.

Volunteers are instrumental in every aspect of most not-for-profit agencies and help those organizations have greater reach and impact. Whether sorting produce at a food bank, training to be a mediator for family court, lending a hand at a preschool, providing respite for a caregiver. or advocating for a cause, the act of volunteering is truly about bringing people together to build safe, stable, healthy communities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 25 percent of the national population volunteer at least once a year. That means nearly 200,000 Snohomish County residents have given their time and skill to a cause or action. Compare that to the Nov. 7, 2017 county general election in which approximately 148,000 registered voters sent in their ballots, and you can see the incredible power volunteerism has on a community.

To volunteer, you don’t have to register, be of a certain age or live in a specific district to have a voice. All you need to do is volunteer.

This year, April 15-21 is recognized as Volunteer Appreciation Week. Volunteer and be the change. Let your actions be your “vote” to create the community you are proud to call your own.

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