Your Take 

Your Take: Do You Volunteer?

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In these difficult economic times, charitable organizations and philanthropies have seen a dip in charitable giving. It’s unfortunate but understandable; if you have to decide between rent and supporting a charity, chances are rent will win out.

If you can’t donate money, consider donating your time. I started volunteering at Meals on Wheels in Howard County last week and it’s been a blast so far. The task is pretty simple, the work needs to be done, and my donation of time costs me very little and saves them money. All I’m doing is helping pack a two hundred or so meals once a week (one lunch, one dinner).

The first day consisted of:

  • Opening up cans of fruit cocktail and scooping about three ounces of it into little containers.
  • Packing two juices, a milk, an apple, turkey sandwich, mayo, and a tea bag into brown paper bags.
  • Heating up some kosher soups in the microwave.
  • Spooning broccoli into a little plastic lunch tray, that already had pasta and italian sausage, and handing it off to someone else to seal.

Day two? It was St. Paddy’s day so the cold meal was roast beef and the hot meal was corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. We were done in two hours flat.

And during that entire mechanical process, I chatted with the three other volunteers about all sorts of stuff. We even talked about Twitter! They knew what it was, they just didn’t get why it was popular… how about that?

Do you volunteer anywhere and, if so, where? What’s the work like? If you don’t and have a few hours to spare, please give it some consideration because it’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people, and you get to do some good without spending a dime.

{ 34 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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34 Responses to “Your Take: Do You Volunteer?”

  1. nickel says:

    We don’t. We’re so swamped with the kids that we spend our spare time doing stuff like coaching soccer, etc. Over time I hope to start giving more time, especially as the kids get old enough to help (two birds, one stone). But for now, donating my time means taking it away from my family, and I’m not currently willing to make that sacrifice. Instead, we donate quite a bit of cash to our preferred charities.

    • nickel says:

      Forgot to say that my wife volunteers at the kids’ school several times per week. With three in school there, and a fourth joining them soon, I would imagine that this will continue for quite some time.

    • MissMartha says:

      I think that running a club, like Girl Scouts, or coaching a team is volunteering! You teach children great skills like teamwork. To encourage giving back you can always get the team together to have a food drive or spend a day doing yard work for an elderly neighbor!

  2. I have not volunteered for any “charity”; rather, I have helped out friends. Most recently, I spent about 14 hours helping some old friends(We had not seen them for about 6 years.)move.


  3. Matt Fyffe says:

    Every now and then I help out at the local soup kitchens and it’s a great time. You get to meet the other servers and talk to a lot of interesting people who come there for food.

    Lately, I’ve been a lot like Nate, helping out friends and family who’ve lost their jobs to help style their resume a little nicer.

  4. Miranda says:

    I volunteer at church and at my son’s school. I also like to be available to help family and friends whenever necessary. Next year, though, when my son is in school all day, I’m excited to start stepping up my community service and involvement. My aunt wants me to come to Kiwanis with her, and I’m thinking of that, among other options.

  5. Dave says:

    I have volunteered at a number of charities. My favorite by far is Habitat for Humanity. I love learning new skills at the same time that I am helping someone build their home. Even though they are a charity, the homeowners still have to work on the house, have a steady income, and take financial training. It’s a great charity.

  6. My wife and I volunteered at a local Camp Erin this past summer. Camp Erin is a child bereavement camp that was established through The Moyer Foundation in memory of my youngest cousin.

    Camp lasted from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. It was a bit grueling, but was certainly a rewarding experience. It’s something that we plan to continue volunteering for in the future.

    Check it out, here’s the link:

  7. sara l says:

    Right now I’m working with an organization that helps foster youth. I’m looking into a few other things because in this processes I’ve realized I prefer kids to teens.

  8. Meals on Wheels is my charity of choice.

    You should go maybe with someone to deliver the meals if you get a chance. It will change how you view it forever.

    Most Meals on Wheels organizations are run on very tight budgets. That means financial contributions can go a long way as well.

  9. Jopocalypse says:

    I used to vollunteer for multiple charitites, but have found that since I started working full-time it has been much harder to make the time. Furthermore, I have found it difficult to identify vollunteer opportunities that are local fit my time criteria and are satisfying to me, perhaps I need to expand my search.

    This post has inspired me though, so off to search again for viable opportunities!

  10. JR Moreau says:

    I’ve worked for non-profits and human service agencies in the past, so I realize the value of volunteering. I tend to be a returning volunteer at places where I feel comfortable. I don’t like to do random volunteer days much. I’d rather establish a relationship and be consistent at one or two places.

  11. John E says:

    I have volunteered for years at our local public radio station – twice a year they have a fund drive where people call in donate money, so I get to answer phones. I also help out once a month at the station’s information table at the local art museum, where the station sponsors an event called Artful Thursday. And two years ago when I was between jobs I helped out in their membership department stuffing envelopes and preparing premiums for mailing. Over the years I have met several new friends, and talked with loads of interesting people from all walks of life. A truly rewarding time…

  12. Tim says:

    I use to volunteer, then realized that if people don’t give a damn about themselves, then I shouldn’t either.

  13. In college, I was the president of a club called Students For Cambodian Schools. We were raising money to build an elementary school in rural Cambodia. For those of you who don’t know, Cambodia has a huge human trafficking problem, where children and women are sold off into the sex trade or slave labor. But where ever a school is built, the human trafficking in that area drops dramatically, because parents have somewhere else to send their kids to, and it creates economic opportunity.

    Even though I’ve graduated, I still help out with the club, because I really want to see that school built.

  14. Bob says:

    I am a certified volunteer in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) and help prepare tax returns on weekends.I love the work as I get to meet all kinds of people. The best part of the work is not about doing the taxes itself but interacting with people and getting a glimpse of their lifestyle and financial situations.I usually do this for about 5 weeks every year from March 1st to April 15th.

  15. JB says:

    I used to volunteer regularly then stopped when I started an exempt job with erratic schedule. I couldn’t anticipate a weekly time I would always be free. Lately, I’ve been thinking of volunteering with Big Brother, Big Sister.

    It’s a really great way to connect with the community, help someone, feel good about yourself and make a difference, however large or small.

    • MG says:

      I’ve been a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 3 years. It is very rewarding, and I encourage you to check it out. Not only are you helping a child, but when you think you have a bad day or troubles, you can stop and think about your little and, if you are like me, realize that your problems are really nothing.

  16. Kara says:

    Volunteering also provides networking opportunities and could get your foot in the door to a long term paid position.

  17. TStrump says:

    I don’t presently volunteer but I have recently been considering it.
    I do contribute a lot to charity, though.

  18. Cap says:

    I use to do a lot of volunteer work simply because I was in the Boy Scout.. it was a good experience, but thinking back, I find it unlikely that (as a young kid) I’ll go out and volunteer unless someone told me to do it. So that probably doesn’t count.

    Still, it built the volunteer spirit in me and I’ve since volunteer whenever I could.

    Agree with all that volunteering your time is a great way to contribute to the community and give a little back.

  19. Luke says:

    I try to take a much larger view of volunteering than just to those organizations that are designated such by the Government, much like my view of philanthropy. Though we do volunteer at our kids’ schools, both private, we try to help strangers, family, friends and neighbors when they need the help – moving, yard work, crossing the street, etc.

    Much of it is a mindset that I hope we can instill in our kids.

    Jim, thanks for writing the post.

  20. NoVolunteer says:

    Why should I give away ANY of my time. My time is my time. It is valuable to me and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES would I even dream of “volunteering”. Volunteering is for the weak, the people with low self-esteem, the ones who need to do something to make themselves feel valued.

    I never ever, ever volunteer, nor do I believe in tipping. My tip? Go back to school and get educated, like I did, and use that education to get ahead in life, like I did. Maybe then, you would not need to rely on “volunteers” or “tips” to get you through life!

    • Jim says:

      My time is also valuable to me and I think it’s valuable to support organizations that need it, I think it’s ignorant of you to pass judgment on those who choose to spend their time in the service of others.

      I have no idea why you brought up tipping.

  21. Diane says:

    Raising 2 boys as a single mom I’ve done all my volunteer work in areas that allowed me to spend extra time with my sons & be involved in their lives – class volunteer, room mom, field trips, cub scout leader, boy scout leader, soccer coach.

    Now that my younger son is in high school I volunteer at the school, and for the soccer team booster club. My first priority has to be time with my kids.

    Once my younger son graduates, I’d love to work with Habitat for Humanity (we’ve done a lot of home renovations ourselves) or with tutoring/mentoring kids who need extra help with reading, which has been very important to our lives.

  22. MissMartha says:

    Another great thing about volunteering is that you can develop skills that will bolster your resume! Its also wonderful to hear when you are interviewing someone that they volunteer at XYZ place in their free time. It shows you that the person can balance work with life and they can be passionate about something – a skill that may translate into the work place!

  23. Kate says:

    NoVolunteer, I’m truly amazed that you have such a selfish and uneducated view of volunteering. You’ve obviously never given it a try, for you will find that most volunteers are smart, educated, successful people who enjoy the opportunity to be of service to others.

    While I doubt that a narrow-minded person would care, I adore these two quotes:

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead.

    “The privilege and penalty of your education and the position you hold in your community is that over the coming decades, as in past decades, you will be the pace setters for political and social thought in your community. You may not accept this responsibility, but it makes no difference. It is inescapable for, if you decide to set no pace, to forward no new ideas, to dream no dreams, you still will be pace setters. You will simply have decided there is no pace” – Adlai Stevenson.

    If you choose not to participate, you get no say. Which is OK with me.

    While I agree with Jim that tipping is completely irrelevant, you certainly understand the economics of it: we could all stop tipping, and restaurants and other services would just raise their prices to compensate their employees. You’re going to pay for it either way. Tipping gives you the ability to pay for the service commensurate with its quality. If we abolish tipping, all service employees will be paid the same whether you get outstanding service or lousy service.

  24. BobV says:

    God has blessed my wife and I with enough finances so that I can be a full time volunteer at my church as well as serve on several boards in the area. I enjoy the work, I can make my own hours and since retiring from the Navy, keep myself busy and out of my wife’s hair.

  25. Lau says:

    Wow NoVolunteer.. I’m simply speechless. Your statement show a great deal of ignorance and immaturity.

    As far as volunteering, I too am VITA certified and do tax preparation. I go to two different sites once a week.

    I also tutor once a week at a homeless shelter.

    These are really opposite environments, but I love them both.

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