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Kick Off the New Year by Becoming a Volunteer

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“Become kinder, healthier, and happier…”

By Mary Gardner-Ruch,

Many nonprofit organizations depend on volunteers to help accomplish their mission.  Volunteering can be a great way to give back to your community, combat loneliness, feel part of a team, build self-esteem, and experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from helping others. 

Volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, although those are generally welcomed. You can choose a volunteer experience that fits your lifestyle and your schedule.  Even helping out with a small task can make a big difference in the lives of others. I was the Volunteer Coordinator at the Office for the Aging and I remember what a difference it made to find a volunteer who would go in and change a light bulb or a battery in a smoke detector for someone who could no longer climb up a ladder or stand on a step stool to reach. Getting help with little things can often help someone stay safely in their own home. 

Research shows that volunteers are healthier and have a lower mortality rate than those who do not volunteer. Volunteering can also minimize chronic pain and reduce the risks of heart disease. Regardless of your age, volunteering can help take your mind off your worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and relieve stress.  Doing good for others and for the community provides you with a sense of connection and accomplishment. 

Ask yourself what is missing from your life and what interests you.  If you like to help with animals, the Allegany County SPCA or fostering animals could be a good fit. Do you enjoy older people?  The Allegany County Office for the Aging has a wide array of volunteer opportunities including delivering Meals-on-Wheels, providing friendly visits or phone calls, providing tax assistance, transportation to medical appointments or grocery shopping, and more.  Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities love visitors, people who are willing to perform music or help with activities.  

Our fire departments and ambulance corps depend on volunteers.  Our libraries, schools, Food Pantries, and churches also utilize volunteers.  There were many unfilled positions for Justices in certain townships. Perhaps your interest lies in civic positions and you could serve your community by running for office or serving on a town or village board, or school board.  Agencies like Accord, the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities also have volunteer needs. 

Our rural communities need volunteers to provide programs and services to community members.  As you ponder what you want to do in the New Year to become kinder, healthier, and happier, consider volunteering. 

Volunteers disseminate information for the Alfred University Food Pantry at the Alfred Farmers Market
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