Friday, March 30, 2012

Get Involved In Your Community

By Diane McLelland, Career Counselor

Look around you…then ask yourself, ‘Who needs my help today?’ That could very likely be step one in getting involved in your community. Really!

Keep in mind that many organizations and non-profits rely solely on donations and volunteers to survive. You may not think that you alone can make a difference, but think again!
It’s easy to immerse ourselves in our own little world, and our own problems and concerns. We need to be mindful of our families and their well-being. But, look around and see who might need some assistance in your community. By giving of oneself with our talents and time, it’s amazing what you can accomplish, and how you can help others. By determining where your interests or talents lie, you could be a valuable asset as a volunteer!

Some people get involved in their community because they have children. For example, they may coach their son or daughter’s soccer team. Yet others find themselves getting involved in a cause, perhaps borne from an interest, or even an illness or accident of a loved one or themselves…still others develop a passion they may have wanted to pursue, and in doing so, they may be helping others.

You may want to exercise your creativity through the arts, non-profit organizations, or even a synagogue, church, or temple. Several worthy organizations that I have had personal experience with are my church and Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. I serve on the Courtesy team at my church, and also participate (as an actor) in the monthly Family Experience, or FX Live presentation. Places of worship often rely heavily on the contributions of the time and talent of members. I have met some amazing people there, and feel that in some small way I am making a difference. Getting involved in missions trips, or contributing financially so that others may take the trip are easy ways to get involved. I have also served as a class facilitator at a women’s organization, and have helped outfit women in career clothing in preparation for an interview or a new job. These rewarding experiences have allowed me to not only meet important and influential people, but to assist those who I am there to serve.

Perhaps you have always had a keen interest in politics. Why not volunteer for your party or candidate’s campaign? In a similar way, giving of your time or resources to a civic cause can be more far reaching than you may think.

Most people think that helping out at a shelter or food bank during the holidays is a great way to get involved, and while it certainly is, do keep in mind that help is needed 365 days per year. You could organize a group of friends to volunteer on a bi-monthly basis, or hand out water bottles during the summer at the local food bank. Habitat for Humanity always accepts assistance, whether you’re a semi-professional painter, or have never even used a hammer. There are always ways to get involved!
If you have an interest in acting or serving behind the scenes, perhaps getting involved in your local community theater is an option. I have a friend that volunteers as an usher at one of the theaters in our town, and the caveat is that it allows him to see all the plays!

Do you enjoy pets, but are unable to have one? Consider donating your time at a pet shelter. Organizations such as ‘Home Fur Good’ will train volunteers to act as dog handlers and adoption counselors. Shelters need people to walk dogs and clean pets’ quarters.

Visiting a retirement community or the ward of a children’s hospital is a great way to spend your time. One look at a grateful child will melt your heart, and make you realize how important a few moments of your time is to them. Reading to elderly patients in a group home may bring joy to the residents. You might also consider serving as a volunteer at your local hospital at the information desk or gift shop.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters is another important and worthy organization, as is the Boys and Girls Club. There are many diverse opportunities within those organizations that serve children.
Most cities host large events, and will advertise for help and train volunteers, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people who share your passions.

Finally, there are those who are unable to physically serve others, but who give of their financial resources. I know a very dear woman who cannot idly watch the children in third world countries drink polluted ‘drinking’ water that animals are bathing in simultaneously. She gives from her heart, has been instrumental in the building of several water wells, and in turn, is getting involved in a global effort.

So, you see, getting involved is much more than donating a few spare hours on a Saturday—you may be changing lives unaware.

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About the Author
Diane has been called a "fashionista" from a young age, acquiring her love of fashion after enrolling in Sears Charm School as a young girl. After earning her degree in fashion merchandising & business she gained experience by appearing in movies, commercials and magazine layouts. She also worked as a flight attendant for 15 years and wrote for a well-known travel publication. Diane currently works with students to provide career advisement and loves to act as a personal shopper on the weekends for her friends and family.

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