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Q&A on Volunteering: Helping Others, Helping Yourself

Hands On Nashville (HON) works to address critical issues facing the Middle Tennessee community through volunteer-centric programming. Annually, HON connects thousands of volunteers to service opportunities supporting area nonprofits and other programs. As Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee begins seeking participants in its first-ever Volunteer Program for the public, we asked our new partner, HON, a few basic questions:

GOODWILL: Why should people consider volunteering?

HON: Beyond the immediate benefits and needs that volunteerism provides to community issues and initiatives, there is an intangible bond and sense of togetherness and pride that serving with others can inspire. Volunteering provides great teaching and learning opportunities for adults and youth alike, and a great vehicle for instilling and extending core values.

For example, when volunteers engage in service at a local garden where food is produced for those in need, they not only gain gardening skills, but an understanding of the local food system, and food security issues facing our community.

Volunteerism provides invaluable skill-building opportunities for community members of all ages, especially young people. Through service, volunteers can develop characteristics including a strong a sense of community and place; a greater understanding of issues and resources; as well as develop empathy, compassion, and teamwork skills. Through service-learning, youth have the opportunity to learn about the community in which they live, and can gain skills and confidence to make a difference in the lives of others.

Being engaged with your community is also a great way to meet like-minded individuals.

GOODWILL: What reasons do people commonly offer for why they chose to volunteer?

HON: Volunteers get involved for a variety of reasons.

People want to help
Hands On Nashville engages volunteers of all ages who simply want to put their time to good use.

People want to support causes they are truly passionate about
Many volunteers want to support specific causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Whether you are passionate about supporting the education system, food security, those experiencing homelessness, or any other need facing our community, volunteering is a direct path to lending a helping hand towards progress.

Many students seek out service opportunities to support educational requirements.

To meet the mission of their civic, religious, and community organizations.

Companies encourage their employees to volunteer
Many companies lead volunteer programs and encourage their employees to get involved. Volunteering with co-workers is a great way to build teamwork skills while supporting your company’s philanthropic mission.

People volunteer to get connected and meet like-minded individuals
Oftentimes, we meet volunteers who have just moved to town and want to get plugged into the community and meet new people.

GOODWILL: What benefits do people report?

HON: Many volunteers report that helping the people and places around you through volunteerism is a very gratifying experience. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has compiled great research that explains the benefits of volunteering. Here’s what their research has found:

Benefits of Volunteering
Perhaps the first and biggest benefit people get from volunteering is the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their community and country. The intangible benefits alone — such as pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment — are worthwhile reasons to serve. In addition, when we share our time and talents we:

  1.      Solve Problems
  2.      Strengthen Communities
  3.      Improve Lives
  4.      Connect to Others
  5.      Transform Our Own Lives

Benefit Your Health

Over the past two decades we have also seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. This research, which is presented by CNCS in a report titled “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, whether because they are more likely to face higher incidence of illness or because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.

Some of these findings also indicate that volunteers who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.

GOODWILL: What should people consider when choosing a place to volunteer?

HON: At Hands On Nashville, we strive to make it easy for community members to find meaningful volunteer opportunities that accommodate their schedules. Here are a few ideas for getting started.

Decide how you want to help.
Are you interested in doing something physical, like planting trees, making energy improvements in a neighbor’s home, or sorting clothing and donation boxes? Or perhaps, you are interested in tutoring a child or sorting a nonprofit’s administrative needs? Volunteerism occurs in our community every day in a variety of ways.

Is there an impact area you want to support?
Volunteering can make a significant impact to support issues areas, including hunger, homelessness, education, and the environment. Consider how your efforts will support the  community, and seek out organizations whose missions meet your interests.

What works best for your schedule?
Hands On Nashville provides a calendar of opportunities that help volunteers find the best volunteer projects that work for their schedule. Do you have more time in the mornings, afternoons, or nights? Are weekends better for you? Would you prefer to volunteer virtually or closer to home? Determine the best time for you and seek out opportunities that match.

Annual Report_2014_Cover

For more information on how Goodwill is impacting the lives of others read our 2014 Annual Report.

About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.

For nearly 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. In 2015, Goodwill served 36,081 people in Middle and West Tennessee and placed 15,412 people in jobs. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be obtained online at www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities through Hands On Nashville by calling (615) 298-1108.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Goodwill by calling (615) 346-1601

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