Volunteering benefits emotional health

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Want to volunteer?

For information about volunteer opportunities with over 200 local organizations, contact the Human Services Council at 360-694-6577 or visit them at www.hsc-wa.org. A short list of volunteer opportunities in Clark County is also available on Live Well.

Those who have served as volunteers, managed volunteers or received the benefits of volunteerism will likely testify the experience was both important and rewarding. Volunteering is important to the community and the programs that deliver much needed services. It is especially rewarding to those who donate their time, expertise and passion as volunteers.

The emotional benefits of volunteering are an integral part of that reward, especially during the holiday season when added stress affects many of us.

“There are as many reasons to volunteer as there are people who serve," according to Jackie McReynolds, senior instructor and academic coordinator with the Washington State University Vancouver Department of Human Development. "Volunteering is not just an altruistic act. It’s an opportunity to advance in all areas of your life.”

She notes a few examples of things gained when you give of your time and yourself:

• Share your skills and gain new ones.

• Develop self-esteem and self-confidence.

• Meet new people.

• Feel needed and valued.

• Experience something new.

• Serve your community and country.

“Such a multitude of reasons can create very positive physical and psychological health outcomes for the volunteer," McReynolds says. "It allows us to remain cognitively and socially engaged with others, it creates intrinsic rewards for the contributions made (which builds self-esteem and self-value), and it allows us to 'sharpen our saws' as we enhance existing skill sets and create new ones.”

The Clark County Human Services Council (HSC) manages four “volunteer driven” programs. They are AmeriCorps/VISTA; RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program); SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors); and the Volunteer Center. Through a recent HSC survey, volunteers explained the value of their volunteer experiences. The following comments show how volunteerism can strengthen our emotional health as both a provider and receiver of the gift of volunteerism.

"I so enjoy all these years in this program (pen pal) and I wish to continue for a long time. I’m 82 and it means so much to me to feel that maybe I’ve helped the children.” – D.V.

“It’s easy to sit around and feel sorry for yourself and think that your usefulness is over. Working with these kids you have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, and it’s a great feeling.” – Lee L.

“I’ve found my niche. I love it and it’s become my passion! I know I’m helping tomorrow’s generation and making a difference.” – Darlene

“I have found that people needing help with food and friendship really appreciate it when someone helps them out.” – Bob M.

A separate HSC survey sent to volunteers earlier in 2011 provides another glimpse of how volunteers valued their experience.

97% felt they made a positive difference.

94% felt a sense of accomplishment.

93% felt they had a purpose in life.

82% felt volunteering increased their sense of well-being.

78% felt volunteering increased their self-esteem.

76% They looked forward to each day.

For information about volunteer opportunities with over 200 local organizations, contact the Human Services Council at 360-694-6577 or visit us at www.hsc-wa.org.

photoMichael Holroyd, Human Services Council

Since February 2011, Michael Holroyd has worked at Clark County Human Services Council as program manager for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and the new Volunteer Center. He is a retired associate professor at Washington State University Extension in Vancouver. And his hobbies include dogs, walking, volunteering, photography and kayaking.