You may love to volunteer but it can be hard to find out where to put your talents and resources.
Jodi Robinson shares five successful ways to volunteer.
You can make a difference in the world by serving right where you are. No need to go to a faraway country when opportunities to serve abound. So many are right out your front door! To get YOU psyched about service, we’d like to share some service and volunteer ideas right here in our local community; practical ideas that you can take and make your own. So, get out your front door and make someone happy! And YOU, too, will feel happy.
A recent study in the BMC Public Health journal actually shows that volunteering and giving can improve mental health and help you live longer (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822194451.htm). Service is contagious and even addicting. I can attest to that having enjoyed my volunteer work at a drug rehabilitation facility, called House of Hope in downtown Salt Lake, going on 13 years. I can honestly it is truly my addiction!
Too often, we think service has to be BIG and so we put it off. But service can be simple. It can be a donation to a worthy cause; a thank you letter to a neighbor who has a beautiful flower garden that makes you smile whenever you pass by; or time spent reading with a child; or even walking a dog whose owner is away a lot.
Service is Mindset
Service is a mindset to give right where you are and a favorite story that teaches this principle is entitled The Three Questions based on a story by Leo Tolstoy (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Questions-Based-story-Tolstoy/dp/0439199964). Read it to your family and friends and then discuss how you can best serve right where you are.
In this book, the young boy Nicolai asks three questions:
• What is the best time to do things?
• Who is the most important one?
• And what is the right thing to do?
He wants to be the best he can be and make a difference, like we all do. So, he asks his friend Leo, the wise turtle, these questions and Leo then shows him that serving the person right where you are at the moment you are needed is how you achieve success. It is a delightful story, with beautiful watercolor illustrations, that your family and friends will enjoy.
Serve Where You Are
Service may take you across continents but it can be as close as your local elementary school. Simply look where you spend your time and serve there. Many moms in our communities are Room Mothers in their children’s classrooms.
One thing I have enjoyed doing as a Room Mom is tying fleece blankets with the kids for school parties. Say you have a Valentine’s Day party. Bring in a pre-cut piece of fleece and tell the kids you’re going to make “Love Knots.” Tell them to infuse good thoughts and wishes into every knot they tie. While they work, educate them with facts about the organization/person for whom you are tying the blanket. Once the blanket is finished, the kids can admire their accomplishment and then enjoy games and goodies. This even worked with my fifth graders, so NO grade is too young or old. Not only do the kids feel a sense of accomplishment, but they have also learned about being mindful of others. How fun it would be for your Halloween class party to find a fun spider print. Or, what about a camouflage print that can be given to a family whose husband or wife is serving in the Military to say thank you. Think of how you can turn your next school party into a service opportunity.
Crafting for Your Community
If you love crafting, this next project is for you! It takes less than 10-15 minutes and requires something found in every household. A mason jar.
Over the years, I have had church groups and Girl Scout groups make hundreds of these for my ladies at House of Hope, where I teach motivational classes. They are so easy make. And can be donated to any organization that serves women and teens.
You simply decorate mason jars with scrapbooking paper or material, ribbons, and embellishments and fill them with slips of paper saying positive thoughts and quotes meant to motivate and inspire. Think of the possibilities! On Pinterest, it’s easy to find quotes, or you can email me and ask for my master quote list.
If you are interested in making jars for my ladies at House of Hope, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, make them for a group of your choosing. For instructions on how to make Positive Affirmation Jars, check out my blog at www.jodimarierobinson.blogspot.com.
Any non-profit group that benefits women, children, or teens would welcome these inspirational jars. Here are a few groups to keep in mind:
Odessy House, Salt Lake (substance abuse treatment center)
South Valley Sanctuary, Murray (women’s and children crisis center)
The Center for Change, Provo (Treats women and girls recovering from eating disorders)
House of Hope, Salt Lake, Provo, Ogden (women with children recovering from substance abuse)
Boys and Girls Club, Murray
Collecting for Your Community
Sometimes service is hands-on and sometimes what an organization really needs more than anything is money and donated goods. So, I have THREE really great service ideas to share in this category and they can be done by throwing a party or gathering! And who doesn’t love a party! I’m all about having fun! So, when you’re getting creative about serving, think about having fun and doing good at the same time.
The next time you plan a baby shower, why not ask the women to bring their gift for your friend and also bring one for The Utah Hope Project for moms on bed rest. This is a little unknown group that I want to introduce you and it was created by a mom pregnant with twins who spent her holidays on bed rest in the hospital hoping to keep her two little ones in utero. After giving birth, Lisa realized how difficult it is to stay positive when you’re lying in bed 24/7, so she started The Utah Hope Project.
The bags are handmaid so you could have your guests sew bags while you visit and eat appetizers. This way, while celebrating you’re also serving. Remember, if “serving right where you” are is going to become your MINDSET, you get to think about ways to incorporate service in the everyday things you do. I like to plan parties, so often I plan them with a service purpose in mind and collecting donations is a great way to do that. In 2012, more than 200 bags were given to 19 different hospitals in Utah. If you are interested in sewing bags and filling them with gifts for expecting mothers all over our state, email email@example.com or visit www.utahhopeproject.blogspot.com.
The bags include:
o Handmade ribbon bookmark
o Nail polish
o Music CD
o And you can add anything women would find useful and inspiring.
This next service idea is for a well-known group who is in desperate need of help. Many youth leave foster care with few resources to help them set up their own home. The Christmas Box Lifestart Kits were created through input from teens aging out of care—they are also based on items that a parent would likely send their child to college with. Each Lifestart Kit is contained within a convenient 30 gallon plastic tub and includes:
o – Blanket
o – Pillow
o – Sheet set
o – Dishes and set of plastic tumblers
o – Plastic tumblers—set of four or six
o – eating utensils
o – Plastic measuring cups and spoons
o – Assorted cooking utensils—mixing spoons, pancake turner, spatula
o – Can opener/peeler
o – Set of cooking pans
o – Set of plastic mixing bowls
o – Kitchen towels and dish cloths
o – Bath towels and wash cloths
o – Hygiene kit
o – Tool kit
o – Small first aid kit
o – Flashlight
Can you imagine? You are going out on your own. You don’t have a family to lean on and you’re going out into the world with nothing. These LIFESTART KITS literally help these young adults start life! I love this idea! So, if your family or group would like to help out and make a wish come true for Christmas Box, plan a neighborhood gathering and ask people to bring an item on the list. For Thanksgiving, have family members bring something to donate. Christmas is right around the corner. Set a goal to create one of these kits as a family. Let your kids earn money to help donate to this cause. Again, use your imagination and make it happen! More information on LIFESTART KITS can be found at: http://www.operationkids.org/lifestart-kit/
Another worthy cause to donate items to is called Hearts Knit Together. What I love about these kits is the love that goes into them. The coordinator, Linda Simmons, is passionate about making sure the book, the stuffed animal, the towels, and the toiletries all coordinate. One of the women I worked with last year, said she had found a stuffed octopus and had a heck of a time finding a towel and book to match, but a few weeks later someone donated a towel and guess what? It had octopuses on it! And she was thrilled to finish that special bag for a special boy or girl. Last year, this group donated over 3,600 welcome kits to all 16 domestic violence shelters in Utah, to Holding Out Help for the escapees from polygamy, to the Family Support Center and to the Refugee program. Imagine if you’re a mother and your child is given a kit with a brand new, clean towel and a stuffed animal to hold at a time when life just doesn’t seem fair. The kits are made for women and children. Since its inception 7 years ago, 10,000 of these kits have been donated.
• Drop offs can be delivered to:
o South Jordan: 1194 West Jordan Parkway (104th South)
o Salt Lake: 2200 South State Street
Hours: Tues, Thurs, Fri., 1:00 – 5:00 pm.
Contact Linda Simmons, Project Coordinator hm 280-0640, cell 5983218, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Service with Random Acts of Kindness
I want to end this segment with a challenge for everyone who sees it to perform a random act of kindness some time in this next month. I had an experience last Christmas at Kmart that motivated me to keep a little extra cash in my wallet for unexpected, what I like to call, “pay it forward” moments. On the air, I will share my “Kmart Pay It forward” experience.
Here is an article you can share with your family, as you introduce the concept of paying it forward and performing random acts of kindness. It epitomizes kindness in a rare form. A North Carolina couple with an 8-year-old son with epilepsy was having a hard time with his acting out at a restaurant. It was common for them to get stairs and negative comments, but the wife said, later that that week had been particularly difficult. During their “lively” dinner, the waitress walked over and handed the couple a note from a patron and told the family their meal had been paid for. The note read, “God gives special kids to special people.” Can you imagine how that must have made that couple feel? How amazing it must have been to receive praise and acceptance instead of harshness and criticism.
Read the story here: http://global.christianpost.com/news/stranger-pays-for-epileptic-childs-meal-says-god-only-gives-special-children-to-special-people-103769/
IDEA: Let this inspire you to look for opprotunities to Pay It Forward or perform a Random Act of Kindness.
Why not set aside an amount of money each month that you will give (even to a complete stranger) when the moment feels right.
a. Pay for someone’s dance tuition or recital costume who is financially struggling.
b. Pay for someone’s lunch at the drive through, then drive away happy.
c. Keep a scrapbook of what your family does to Pay It Forward. Not to be bragging, but to notice how good it feels to be doing good. Good deeds breed more good deeds. It’s contagious! You want to keep doing random acts of kindness once you start. And imagine what these small acts of kindness will do to change your life and the world!
One final thought…remember to keep your service simple. No need to add stress to your already stressful life! Service should be fun and uplifting to everyone, including YOU! And don’t compare what you do to someone else. We are all in difference seasons of our lives. Some have more time, more money, and more energy. The race is NOT against each other. We are all working together to make our world a better place. Cheer anyone on who is going about doing good! Sometimes that can be the best service of all!
Hands-On Volunteering In Your Community
Non-profit organizations are usually short on time and money. That means they like to rely on donations and volunteers, so if you are passionate about a particular cause and have time to give, contact the Volunteer Coordinator of the organization you’re interested in. Tell the person your interests and find out what their needs are. Don’t be shy about your talents. And eventually you will find something that fits your needs and their needs. And don’t give up! When I called House of Hope 13 years ago, the first person I talked to said, “Oh, we don’t need anyone at this time.” Who knew that my persistence would lead to 13 years of service there? So be relentless if you are passionate about service.
o The YWCA has a clothing closet that they need help with on a weekly basis.
o The Christmas Box House let’s families come in a make dinners for the guests.
o The Road Home has a donation room that constantly needs to be organized and at Christmas especially needs to be looked after.
o House of Hope could use help with the Sub-for-Santa donations.
o Schools all around the valley are in need of individuals to read 30 minutes with children who struggle. In the Jordan School District, you do have to be fingerprinted at the district office. So keep that in mind.
o The Road Home has a children’s class on Wednesdays evenings. Groups 14 and up can play with the children, teach crafts, play games, and sing songs for an hour while the adults visit in another room. http://www.theroadhome.org/volunteer/group-opportunities/
To find Non-Profit Organizations in your city in UTAH go to: http://www.nonprofitlist.org/UtahNonProfits.html. Some of the listings are not up to date, so you may have to make a call.
Homeless Shelter and Food Pantry
Wish List (a plethora of items specific to the 1,700 animals in the shelter; everything from cat food to salted and shelled peanuts for parrots, dog leashes, to printer cartridges for the office staff. See website for information.)
Cache Valley (One of the best websites I’ve seen. Organized in an easy-use-fashion so you can line up your volunteer interests with service opportunities. Way to go Cache Valley!)
Volunteer opportunities including storytelling in Spanish to children once a week. So, if you’re bilingual and you like working with kids, check this out. Also, if you like to knit or crochet, you can make infant hats for babies who have experienced head trauma. If you like working with the elderly and need service hours for school, or say a Church project, you can participate in the adopt a grandparent program.
Volunteer as a Wish Ambassador and help a child’s wish come true. You can fill out an application and find out more information about working with this fantastic organization.
Salt Lake City
Best Buddies—one-on-one friendships with volunteers and people with intellectual and developmental challenges. (Shelby and Aiden.)
South Valley Sanctuary
a. Click on Urgent Needs List http://www.southvalleysanctuary.com/needslist.pdf
b. AlexandraF@southvalleysanctuary.com. Urgently need 39 gallon trash bags, laundry detergent, Lysol wipes, brooms and mops.
i. Drop off location M-THz 9-5 p.m. F 9-1 p.m.
ii. Cell 9095732482
iii. Also in urgent need of maintenance work; handy people that could fix a slide on the playground, and/or a washing machine and dryer. There are also some paint projects. Possible Eagle Scout project.