Running Out of Things to Do? How about Volunteering!

This post was written by Beth O’Rourke.

“I have too much time on my hands.” That’s what many of us are beginning to think during this quarantine. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little stir-crazy. Jigsaw puzzles are done. Outdoor activities are limited. Binge-watching favorite shows has become stale. So, what next? How can I fill my time with something meaningful? How about volunteering!

It’s good for your mind and body!

One of the best things about volunteering is that it’s good for you! Many of us—myself included—are spending way too much time watching the news or surfing the internet. That can leave us  feeling tired, uncertain, or sad. Research shows that volunteering can reduce stress and fight off depression, all while keeping you mentally stimulated. Studies also show that there are many physical benefits to volunteering, like decreased chronic pain and reduced risk of heart disease. In short, volunteering can help you feel healthier and happier, which is more important now than ever!

We all need a sense of purpose!

Let’s face it, our world as we knew it has been turned on its head. We can find new meaning in our lives by focusing on helping those around us. In fact, I’m guessing that many of us are asking the same question: “How can I help?” If you’re not a medical professional or an essential worker, it’s difficult to know how to answer the question. However, what all of us can do is volunteer our time. Helping out with even the smallest tasks can make a real difference in the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. In return, we can feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and purpose.

You can help make our community stronger!

If you look around, you’ll see many needs. Health care professionals, first responders, and those who provide essential services are working their tails off. They clearly deserve our support and thanks. Additionally, there are less visible members of our community who may be lonely or in need. Our community is only as strong as its most vulnerable residents. You can offer a helping hand by sending a note of encouragement, sewing masks, delivering food or other needed items, providing entertainment from a safe distance, or helping people in some other way. You can make a difference in our community!

Find a good match!

The key to volunteering is finding a match between the needs you see around you and your unique talents and interests. HelpGuide Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits  offers some great tips for connecting you to an activity that can help both you and your neighbors.

Jump In!

I’ve listed some current volunteer ideas off the top of my head. But think of them as thought starters. As you look around you, I’m sure you’ll come up with even better ideas to help those around you and find a sense of well-being and purpose for yourself. As you do, please share your good ideas in the reply section. They could be just what someone else needs to jump in and offer a word of encouragement or helping hand!

  • Sew/make masks. I think it’s fair to say that masks will be in demand for weeks to come. Many of them can be made with simple materials you may have at home. Share completed masks with neighbors or organizations that can distribute them to those in need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides easy “Sew and No Sew Instructions” on its web page Use Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow Spread
  • Check on your neighbors. Call or text them, and ask if there’s anything they need. If you have what they’re looking for, offer to leave it outside their front door. They can pick it up without coming into direct contact with you.
  • Connect with seniors. Residents in nursing homes and senior centers are experiencing extreme loneliness. Call the senior center in advance to find out what they need or to make sure your idea will work for them: 
    • Can you write a short letter or note? Write short notes of encouragement.
    •  Do you have a creative flair? Make an eye-catching craft to distribute to brighten residents’ day. A local youth group made brightly colored wreaths to hang on residents’ doors. My mom loves hers!
    • Do you have the gift of entertainment? As the weather improves, use your performance skills to entertain residents from a safe distance. A young singer worked with the care center to set up a sound system outside to sing favorite tunes to the residents. Imagine the smiles!
  • Clean up your neighborhood. Take a walk in your neighborhood and help by picking up trash or debris with a plastic bag and gloves. If you have the extra time and ability, help a neighbor or senior with their spring clean up yard work. Raking leaves, mowing grass, and pulling weeds can be a great way to get outside, get some physical activity, and have a visible impact on your community. 
  • Explore opportunities with your religious organization. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques are meeting community needs in a variety of safe ways and are looking for people like you to help. Check websites or call to see how you can help. Here are just a few examples:
    • ­  Delivering food to people who are homebound.
    • ­  Assembling activity packets and bags for school children.
    • ­  Providing bagged lunches for school children in areas of need.
    • ­  Stocking and organizing food pantries.
    • ­  Providing tutoring via phone or online to a student home from school.
  • Connect with serving and resourcing opportunities. Mycovidresponse.org is an online resource working to serve central Oakland County including the cities of Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Waterford and the surrounding areas. Complete their short survey to be connected to specific volunteer and resourcing opportunities. You may also wish to check with websites for other organizations such as the United Way of Southeast Michigan or Oakland Meals on Wheels.
  • Donate blood. According to a recent press release from the American Red Cross, volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need. “As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” said Gail McGovern, president and chief executive officer, American Red Cross. “One of the most important things people can do right now during this public health emergency is to give blood. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible.” American Red Cross.

With time on our hands and a desire in our hearts, there is no reason not to jump in. Keep socially connected with safe physical distance and make a positive difference for yourself and our community.

References

American Red Cross (2020, March 17). American Red Cross Faces Severe Blood Shortage as Coronavirus Outbreak Threatens Availability of Nation’s Supply. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/2020/american-red-cross-faces-severe-blood-shortage-as-coronavirus-outbreak-threatens-availability-of-nations-supply.html

Segal, J., Robinson, L. (2019, June). Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits. HelpGuide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness, HELPGUIDE INTERNATIONAL. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

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