Volunteering has a definition: Freely offer something without being asked.

This seems simple enough. Mostly, volunteers don’t think about being a volunteer. They just see something that needs to be done and they do it. Or, folks are asked to help with a project that helps others and are happy to oblige.

The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well here in Pine City. Volunteering is a gift that transcends typical social barriers. It doesn’t matter what sector of life is the focus.

During a conversation about volunteering in Pine City with Mary Kay Brautigan, she summed it up this way. “The wheels would fall off this community if folks quit volunteering. There’s a rich tapestry of volunteering mindsets here in Pine City.”

Perhaps it’s something as simple as offering a smile or opening the door for someone. Maybe its helping someone in a wheelchair bag up some broccoli at the local the grocery store. On the other end of the volunteering spectrum, many hours of selfless effort are spent helping others. Is there such a thing as a profile of a volunteer?

As many of our will readers remember, Margaret Marty wrote many stories about local volunteers in a column called “Singing the Praises.” Sadly, the advertiser that made that column possible decided to use a different venue for their advertising and we had to bid farewell to blowing the trumpet for our volunteers in this manner. So now, how might we shine the spotlight on the unsung volunteer heroes that work tirelessly for the betterment of our community?

Volunteering for many reasons

In the “Singing the Praises” column, every participant was asked the following question. “What motivates you to be a volunteer?”

Overwhelmingly, the answer was, “I desire to give back.” Those who volunteer told of received so much from others, and that volunteering expresses thankfulness. Helping others conveys a sense of compassion for those in need – a Biblical perspective which many interviewees lauded.

Another common response was, “My parents were always so generous and helpful. I watched them help folks all during my childhood.” Families can cultivate a lifestyle that demonstrates volunteering and is especially significant when the family involves children in giving opportunities.

Volunteering is a great way to meet people and make new friends. Many of the interviewees for “Singing the Praises” expressed appreciation for the relationships they develop while volunteering. Of course, many volunteers are retired. They have more time to devote. Many use volunteering to fill a void in their lives with a sense of purpose that helps to cultivate a positive outlook on life.

There are other reasons to become a volunteer. Consider someone just getting a start in life, maybe haven’t figured out a career yet. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, test out various options, adds to a resume and provides a vision that enriches your personal and professional life.

Meaningful interaction through volunteering profoundly inspires a sense of well-being, can relieve stress and encourage a positive view of life. Helping people and your community promotes a sense of pride and identity. Volunteering is immensely helpful for someone who has lost a spouse to heal and foster new meaning to life. Volunteering can help those who are newly retired apply workplace skills on behalf of nonprofit organizations. There are many avenues for disabled persons to offer time and talents to volunteering.

“There’s a fine line in volunteering that separates self-giving and self-receiving,” Brautigan said. “It’s symbiotic. Most volunteers say they get far more than they give.”

Being a volunteer can be hard work

Here’s a typical scenario: A hardworking volunteer works diligently over time but gets weary eventually then complains that he or she doesn’t get any help, perhaps because they don’t ask. Some folks just need to be asked and are honored when they are. They simply don’t think about it until someone brings a need to mind.

Perhaps there should be term limits for leadership roles. Those in leadership might need to groom an associate to take over, or share responsibility.

Volunteer burnout can be a reality. Nonprofit organizations need a preventative strategy. Here’s a link to a Website with excellent organizational information to address burnout:

Pine City Nonprofits

Following is a fairly comprehensive list of Pine City nonprofit and charity organizations:

Rest assured, the heart of volunteering keeps beating. Volunteering is a precious gift.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – David Viscott

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