Question: I made a New Year’s Resolution to be more active and am hoping to start volunteering. How do I know where to start looking for a place to volunteer?
I commend you for your interest in volunteering. There has been a lot of research done on the benefits of volunteering. It can not only make you feel good by giving back to your community, but it can also increase your own skills and sharpen your mental abilities. Being a volunteer is a great way to stay engaged, make new friends and provide a sense of purpose that does wonders for your self-esteem.
The first step is to think about what you have to offer so you can find the best match. What are your skills and strengths that you enjoy using? For example, you may be great at paperwork but find it boring. You want to find a good mix of what you can contribute but also what you enjoy doing. Do you prefer working directly with people or doing behind the scenes work and organizing? Are you better talking to people one-on-one or in groups? Do you prefer to work with animals, children, young adults or older adults? You may want to think back to your last job and picture which aspects of your work you enjoyed most. This can help you narrow down your focus.
The next step is to decide how much time you can commit to the volunteer work. Most organizations have a minimum requirement and ask for a regular schedule. If you do not feel you can commit to a regular schedule there are organizations that may have special events you can volunteer for on a singular basis.
You may have a cause you feel passionate about. In that case, you can search for organizations that serve that cause. There are groups that help animals, that combat food insecurity, that support older adults, families, immigrants and more. If you connect with the cause it will make the work feel easier and motivate you towards committing your time.
Now that you have narrowed down what you are looking for, you can ask around in your community to find the right organization. If you need help searching, there are several websites that help match volunteers to organizations. One such website is www.volunteermatch.org and another is www.serve.gov. These may prove to be useful tools in finding the right fit for your skills.
Call the prospective organization and inquire about their volunteer opportunities. Make sure to ask what their minimum time commitment is and who will be providing your training and guidance. Find out what other requirements they have. Some organizations will require a background check, an application and references. Make sure to ask if there are any costs you are expected to cover. Ask to schedule to an interview. Even though you are not being paid, you still need to decide if this opportunity will meet your needs and if you are the best fit for this organization. You do not want to have the organization invest time and training in you if you do not feel you can make a commitment.
Thank you for looking to enrich your own time by enriching the lives of others. Volunteering is an important role and most community-based organizations rely on people like you to help their programs thrive and reach further into the community.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at email@example.com.
Friday, Jan. 10 7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.: Council on Aging Winter Wonderland Adult Ballroom Dance. The Happy Feet Dance Band will entertain at the Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi. Complimentary Night Club Two-Step dance instruction by Steve Myers is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission only $7. For more information call 805 208-8394.
Sunday, Jan. 12 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.: Health Talk at 5384 Kazuko Ct. #B, Moorpark.
FREE community event. During this one hour health talk you will learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. The new hands-only CPR will be taught. Presented by the Life Spring Care Team. To learn more call (805)210-1869 www.lifespringcommunity.org
Wednesday, Jan 15 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: 2020 Wellness Fest at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Rd. Thousand Oaks. Peace Love and Wellness with more than 50 vendors and interactive courses. Advance tickets are for lunch only and not required to attend the event. Call 805-381-2742 for more information.