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How to Find Your Ideal Place in the Volunteer World

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There is an ideal place for you in the volunteer world. I promise.

As a young girl, I dreamed of being a Candy Striper. I admit it: I didn’t know much about what they actually did.

I was after the uniform. There was something about those pink and white stripes that seemed so grown up.

Years later when I was old enough to understand what Candy Stripers were really about…teenage girls volunteering in hospitals, the uniform no longer intrigued me, but volunteering did.

I got involved at church and school and enjoyed visiting the elderly in the afternoon. Cleaning up the neighborhood on the weekend, tutoring kindergartners, selling brownies and washing cars were great.

They were activities that for me became as much a part of growing up as football games and midterm exams.

Volunteers & Relevant Changes

Volunteering became enmeshed in the fabric of my life, but the volunteer world in which I honed my skills has changed dramatically in the last 30 years.

Has anyone noticed that Candy Stripers now wear green or blue gym shoes and slacks? And some are even males?

The workplace revolution that created a more strategic, independent employee, choosier in balancing life and career demands, has spilled into the work-for-free realm of volunteering.

Volunteers now come with well-defined expectations. Their time is valuable, so they prefer short-term projects that provide tangible results.

And they want the time spent to have real meaning in their lives.

Once the majority of volunteers were stay-at-home moms and retirees.

Volunteer’s Today

Today’s volunteer is a teenager, a GenXer, a professional, a corporate employee, a home-based entrepreneur, a community activist, and all personalities in between.

It is through all their efforts that much of the work to help people and improve community life is done.

Statistics and research can prove this, but more importantly, I can see the evidence every day where thousands of people give freely their time, and yes, even money, to making a difference in the lives of others.

A strong volunteer corps across our country is no longer a luxury or a nicety. It is key to survival and growth.

It has been said that if every American donated five hours a week it would equal the labor of 20 million full-time volunteers.

Imagine the impact that would have in our communities. It would represent a small personal investment with a huge payoff.

Conclusion

To those of you who have found a volunteer niche in this world, all I can say is thank you and keep it up. Your selfishness brings an incredibly personal and community felt reward.

For those of you still searching for just the right something to jump into, know that there is a cause everywhere, and indeed, a need for every cause.

I and others would be more than glad to help you find a comfortable spot in the volunteer world. And we won’t even make you wear stripes.

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