Volunteering and Connecting to the Community

“OK, ladies, we need to pick a volunteer program for the year,” I said to the Girl Scout troop.  I heard a sigh.  “What?” I asked, “Is there a problem?  Not only is this a good thing to do, it looks good on your college application.”
“Yeah, we know,” one girl spoke up, “but, I don’t really like volunteering.  We do a lot of work and we don’t see how it’s helping anyone.”

I looked around the room and saw the girls nodding.  Most of our volunteering had to do with helping those who were anonymous.  We collected food for the food bank, clothes for the needy, pet food and toys for the needy at Christmas.  They did the work but did not see the result for the protection of the family in need, so we don’t get to see the result of her hard work.  They was not getting the satisfaction of a job well done.  How could I argue with that?
This year we tried things differently.  
 
The Library:
 
The library had a call for teen volunteers to read and be read to children visiting the library.  Parents could drop off their kids with the teens for an hour, while they wandered the library.  As a parent, having a few moments without a kid attached sounded like a wonderful idea.  Plus, the girls would have one on one interaction with those who they were helping - the kids.  The girls agreed and signed up at the library.  

The result:  they came out of the program with satisfaction of a job well done.  They have been promoted to Jr. Library assistant and signed up for another two months.
 
5K Race Fundraiser
 
The girls also signed up to help out at a 5K fundraiser for special education school.  They handed out packets and filled treat bags for the runners.  The girls loved working with the program director and other volunteers that they plan on coming next year AND they want to help out at other races.

I’m not saying do not help those who you cannot see.  We will still participate with food collection and the toy program however I think as they get older they want to interact with the outside world.  It gives them a sense of community and it is what I believe will keep them volunteering in their adult life.

 

Comments

  1. Love the post!

    Wow - what a hard sell it is to teens sometimes the value of volunteering. I faced the same challenge for 5 years when I was the Cub Master for my son's Cub Scout packs. It was a tad easier to sell to that age group since they were not suffering from so many corrupt influences of the 'all about me' society.

    Volunteering has been a way of life for me over the past 25+ years. 20 years of volunteering in the Navy, where it was expected (if you wanted to advance) and post Navy for several more years has reaped many a harvest.

    My last 'full-time' job before I left Upstate NY was born from a volunteer gig where I worked 20-30 hours a week (on top of the 40 hour/week paying job) assisting a non-profit with managing their life/job skills urban organic farm training program.

    More recently, I volunteered 30-40 hours a week for a local non-profit (and not working any paying job) managing their farmers market. Although no longer doing that volunteer gig, out of that was born my now prosperous and growing business as "Your Humble Farmer."

    So....I am a huge proponent of volunteering - not simply because of the personal financial gain that has resulted from previous gigs, but more importantly the gift of selfless giving to the community.

    Thank you again for your post!

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    1. Oh, you totally get me about getting teens to volunteer. They don't always see the point of it. I think it's an empathy issue. It's my theory that they are still developing it.

      I am impressed with your volunteering record. I used to volunteer to school and youth groups too. I got tired and now only do girl scouts. You are a better person than me :)

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  2. I find volunteering to be so rewarding and congrats on finding a way to show your troop the value in doing it. Whether the work is on the front lines or in the trenches volunteer time is volunteer time and we don't do enough of it! Good for them!

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    1. I agree, however I believe in balance. As someone who has volunteered A LOT - it can get frustrating. There's something to be said about getting paid - as if someone is saying - good job :)

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  3. I totally agree. Volunteering is really rewarding when you meet the actual people you help. It's simply an incredible feeling. Doing it with friends does give a beautiful sense of community. It's great to teach girls we can gather and work together to do good for our societies. I wish I had volunteered more as a teenager.

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    1. Seeing how much fun they are having, I agree. I think finding what you like is the difficult part.

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  4. My daughter in law got kids involved in a fundraiser called Touch a Truck. They had all kinds of trucks, from fire, military, you name it. The kids volunteered their time to help out. The proceeds went to help storm Sandy victims. The kids rallied up friends and it mushroomed from there. You could see the pride the kids had when the event was a success.

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    1. That is an awesome idea - I love that. Thank you for helping the Sandy victims - I have a lot of family on Long Island that was affected.

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  5. It isn't the easiest thing to convince young kids of the benefits of volunteering. I think what you've done has provided a path to help them see how what they do can and does benefit others. That can lead to doing other good deeds that are more anonymous in nature. Bravo. :-)

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    1. I must admit, I think I was getting tired of the type of volunteering we were doing until we changed our venue to more community based volunteering.

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  6. Wow am I impressed with the balance you have struck with these kids...seeing results and feeling content without seeing results. I read about a study recently that said an individual's happiness can be directly related to, among other things, volunteering. Hopefully, the face to face will get them hooked :) Great job!

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    1. Yeah, I can see how it makes you feel good to help others but the key word there is "see" And with the 5K volunteering, even though they did not see who they were helping, they still got to meet new people and interact with people and I think that's what made it fun. Perhaps that's why it's related to happiness, you are with people who feel good about themselves for helping others.

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  7. You're doing a great job here!!! Loved the post. Volunteering definitely has its rewards!!!

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  8. Yes, I agree with the girls. If you're not seeing the fruit of your volunteer work you wonder if you've really done anything.

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    1. Yes, you got it - that's what I think they were feeling. It's good to do some of that but I think in small doses is better.

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  9. Good job. I am glad they went out and volunteered.

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    1. And hopefully this experience will help them volunteer when they are older.

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  10. It's wonderful that you have such open communication with these girls, and that they are able to tell you how they feel, and have you respond to them appropriately. It sure sounds like they love volunteering now. You serve as a wonderful role model.

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  11. This is such a great point. My kids are younger and we are just starting to think about getting involved as a family in volunteering, this made me realize they will enjoy it more if they can see the fruit of their labor. I would never have thought of it that way before, but I'll be looking for some of those types of opportunities, to help them get excited about helping others.

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    1. Now one of my more successful volunteering was Christmas Caroling for canned foods for the local food shelter with a promise of hot chocolate at the end. We've done it for 7 years but I think they finally got tired of it this year. I think it was more fun when they were littler.

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