Reflections: Neighbor helping neighbor

Neighbor helping neighbor
By William L. Bulla

In this time of tough economy, neighbor helping neighbor is very important. That means volunteering to help one another.
Volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely. Unlike many things in life there is choice involved in volunteering. As a volunteer you have made a decision to help people in need on your own accord.
In Washington County volunteers help their neighbors by performing a variety of free tasks for charities that are too under-funded and under-staffed. A volunteer might stuff envelopes, work on projects with children, build housing, counsel those in crisis, serve meals, work at shelters, sell tickets or just answer the phone. Volunteers serve on the board of directors, and are charged with the task of governing the organization. Excellent examples of this may be found in those agencies working through the United Way.
Volunteering has become a meaningful activity for people of all ages -- adolescents, adults within the work force, and retirees. As an older person, I believe the volunteerism greatly contributes to an older person's ability to age successfully. My personal commitment provides a meaningful activity for my later years. Older volunteers, with their longer experience, may rise to the leadership within nonprofit organizations whose programs and activities depend on voluntary help.
We have seen volunteerism in the U.S. since the early days of barn raisings and quilting bees. Women notably led volunteer efforts. Social problems such as nursing the sick, antislavery, prison reform, illiteracy, and suffrage are examples of traditional women-dominated volunteer roles. The delay of retirement, and the return and staying power of women in the work force have contributed to the decline in volunteer numbers. The need for volunteers of all ages continues.
Be an active part of your community. We sometimes take for granted the community in which we live. People and societies co-depend on each other for survival. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others and having an impact on people's wellbeing. What better way is there to connect with your community and give a little back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you.
Look over the numerous charities in your community to asses their volunteer needs and determine if your skills match those needs. What specific skills or expertise you can offer to help address a particular need. Determine how much time can you realistically give to the organization, when you are able to volunteer, and what unique talents you possess to help it reach its goals.
Once you become a volunteer for an organization, it is important that you make a personal commitment to be there for that organization. Your personal commitment will be reflective of who you are and what you do. Volunteers that show up late, cancel at the last minute and produce limited results encumber the charity, costing it money and preventing it from fulfilling its mission. A reliable volunteer with a strong work ethic can go a long way towards helping a charity meet its goals. Remember the organization has made an investment in you and is depending on you to produce a return.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.