Many people are planning a huge meal, lots of football watching, and gatherings of friends and family in the coming week, but some are hoping you have a little extra time to spare to help where it really counts, as a volunteer. Volunteers contribute free labor for community service or support of a nonprofit organization. They donate time and energy towards a greater cause that helps change the lives of those in their community and without receiving a financial reward. Volunteering doesn’t just offer benefits to nonprofits and other community organizations, it also benefits volunteers themselves. Volunteering is linked to improved mental and physical health, life satisfaction, social well-being and depression.
Volunteerism in the United States stems all the way back to the Revolutionary War when civilians chipped in to support the war effort. Patriotic citizens volunteered to organize boycotts against British imports and raise funds for the war efforts, and of course there were the famous “minute men,” who were a volunteer militia. In the 1800s, the rise of the social reform movement around issues like poverty, temperance, women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery mobilized a new generation that had not previously been involved in civic life, including women and young people. This led to the founding of the YMCA, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and the United Way—institutions formed largely to connect this new volunteer force to social services that improved the lives of others. Now, the internet allows people to communicate with others from all around the world, spreading awareness of
volunteering without having any restrictions due to physical barriers. In the most recent release, The 2021 Volunteering in America Report found over 60 million people volunteered with a combined total of over 4 billion hours!
During this season of thankfulness, giving, and family and friends, there are still some people and animals that could use a little extra help and support. Help with preparing or serving food for community meals, walk and play with dogs at the animal shelter, mentor a youth, or clean up your local park. There are many different types and forms of volunteerism, and anyone can be a volunteer. That’s one of the best things about volunteering; there are a variety of ways for individuals to make an impact according to their interests and skills. Check out a national website like Volunteer Match or local websites such as Columbus Gives Back, Greater Cleveland Volunteers, or Cincinnati Cares to name a few and start making a difference in our world, one hour at a time!
Thank you to Ashely Rodriguez, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!