by Kathleen Donnelly, Director of Volunteer Services

National Volunteer Recognition Week reminds us that there are communities filled with inspiring people who give away the one thing most people have the least of…time.

The commitment of those who make giving to others a part of their lives is critical to enabling human service organizations to fulfill their mission.  And, while we often rate volunteer activity in terms of benefit to the recipients—measuring worth in hours donated, meals served, calls answered or dollars raised—we sometimes overlook the value of human beings caring for one another. It is that act of caring for humanity that sets us apart and elevates the spirit. Selflessness propagates. New volunteers declare that they need no thanks for what they do, maybe because it has also been documented that volunteering has its own compensations.   In addition to the expanded opportunity to engage with others, volunteers often exhibit lowered blood pressure, higher degrees of functionality and lower incidences of depression.

Perhaps just as rewarding to volunteers are the opportunities provided by voluntary engagement.    Many report developing their own strengths, having the opportunity to share their skills and connect with their community as significant to their satisfaction.  New and valuable friendships are formed among volunteers, new connections that arise from a shared commitment to caring.  And happy volunteers seem to multiply; Volunteer Administrators throughout the country will attest that a happy volunteer is the best tool they have for recruiting new volunteers.

If volunteering is on your horizon, Gurwin may be just the place for you.  Do you want to share your story, explore career possibilities, gain critical workplace experience, learn about the elderly or just be a friend to someone who needs one?  There’s a volunteer role for you.  At Gurwin, if you are a “people person” you can visit a resident, listen to their stories and share some of your own experiences.   Done some exotic traveling?  Share your pictures and tales of your adventures.  Are you a shopper?  Try helping out in our Gift Shop.  Residents love to shop too, and someone who shares that passion is always welcome.  Play mah-jongg?  Teach that great game to our new learners.

Teens bring a special vitality and spirit that is unique and much loved by the elderly. As one of our residents recently wrote to our teen volunteers, “You are the one I wait for each week, just to remind me that there is something more than the walls around me,” a powerful reminder that these interactions are sometimes so much more than what we view them to be.   Some high schools and colleges offer credit for volunteering, while programs such as Americorps provide financial assistance to volunteers.

Volunteers have choices, and whether inclined to work with teens, children or the elderly; to offer support to veterans, special needs children or the homeless; or to use their unique skills to build houses, screen shoppers for high blood pressure or assist taxpayers in filling out returns, a volunteer is a priceless gift, one to be treasured counted among many blessings.  Now, during National Volunteer Recognition Week and always, we honor our more than 500 Gurwin volunteers, and invite you to see for yourself just what volunteering can do for you.   Visit our website at www.gurwin.org to learn more.

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