Check out Hands On Nashville’s new creative video, featuring incredible Middle Tennessee volunteers. If you are as inspired as we are, make plans to volunteer at a local nonprofit to start 2012 off right! Visit www.HON.org to view opportunities, including ways to serve on MLK Day weekend Jan. 14-16.
Volunteering is not just about doing good for others – it actually improves your health and overall well-being, too. Why not make a regular volunteering commitment this year? (HON.org makes this an easy resolution to keep! The HON Opportunity Calendar offers up more than 300 opportunities each month.) According to this article on the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) website, “those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” Check out these 5 reasons why volunteering should be on your 2012 resolutions list:
Skill Development: Want to learn about your home and gain a better understanding about best practices to make it more energy efficient? Volunteer with Hands On Nashville’s Home Energy Savings program and get hands-on exposure to common issues while helping improve the energy efficiency of a low-income home in Nashville. You’ll really turn some heads as you mention the “.5 GPM dual-thread sink aerator” you now know how to install. Or… Interested in learning about vegetable gardening? Volunteer with HON’s Urban Gardening program. Or check out one of the many opportunities on the HON Opportunity Calendar.
Self-Confidence: The CNCS article says it best: “Volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust.” Just the simple step of signing up for an upcoming project can seem daunting, but accepting the challenge and making that commitment will build your confidence.
Personal Health: Studies looking at the effects of volunteering (specifically Arnstein et al 2002) found improvements in both mental and physical heath. Patients who volunteered for six months showed decreased symptoms of depression. Arnstein attributed success to patients “finding a sense of purpose” and “making a connection.” Additional studies have found volunteering linked to lower mortality rates and other significant health benefits when individuals volunteered around 100 hours per year (or roughly two hours per week).
Relationship-building: Volunteering exposes you to all sorts of people with all different backgrounds – and you are allowed to dabble to find which opportunity is the best fit for you. Try sorting clothes at ThriftSmart or prepare hot delicious meals for the homeless in West Nashville. Different experiences will connect you and expose you to many different people. Check out the recent blog post written by youth volunteer Allyson Burgess about her experience volunteering at Edgehill Community Center.
Impact the Community: The most incredible reward about volunteering is the difference you make with your unique talents. Try to find ways to improve the issues you care most about and you’ll find your individual spin on how to solve problems. Regularly volunteer and you’ll see a clear picture of how you helped your fellow neighbor, family, environment, or friend. Consider lending your specialized skills to an organization that has a mission you really believe in.References:
Arnstein, P., Vidal, M., Well-Federman, C., Morgan, B., and Caudill M. (2002) “From Chronic Pain Patient to Peer: Benefits and Risks of Volunteering.” Pain Management Nurses, 3(3): 94-103. Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.
By Allyson Burgess
My experience teaching the children at Edgehill Community Center has been beyond rewarding. As I pulled into the parking lot last Friday for my monthly lesson, the kids rushed to the window and started cheering at my arrival. I will keep that precious moment forever in my memory; it made me feel like I was having as big of an impact on their lives as they were on mine.
I entered the room to find past crafts of elephant masks and decorated aprons on the walls. I always start my lesson with a brief summary of everything I have taught them so far. After a quick quiz, I introduced the December lesson: Japanese culture. In just a short hour, the kids were immersed into The Land of the Rising Sun. They all tried sushi for the first time. Some of the kids made faces when they tried it, but some of them fell in love with it. When just a few kids are able to open their minds to try something new, I know my lesson is a success.
I also taught them how to make an origami swan, penguin, and Christmas tree for them to put on their tree at home because it is very common in Japan to use origami as ornaments. After much trial and error, the kids created something very special that had significance to them. Then, the kids decorated karate headbands before a brief fitness lesson where Japanese numbers were incorporated into a game.
By comparing cultural customs, the kids find all the different countries I teach fascinating. They are starting to recognize the origin of certain American customs, and I truly believe this will be a stepping stone towards furthering their ambitions and goals for their lives ahead.
Allyson Burgess, a senior at Davidson Academy, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. These remarkable leaders are currently working with local nonprofits to engage young Nashvillians in educational and skill-building experiences in the arts, fitness/nutrition, and gardening/food security. Allyson leads arts/health projects at Edgehill Community Center one Friday a month.
Malinda Hersh has worked at Hands On Nashville since January 2005, and is Director of Volunteer and Nonprofit Programs. She volunteered at the Nashville Rescue Mission this week alongside eight HON volunteers, and shares this reflection.
The trays kept coming — faster and faster — and were picked up by hungry diners just as quickly as they were filled. The eight people filling the trays had never met before this night, but they worked as efficiently and happily together as any well-practiced team would. The line workers delivered many wishes of “Merry Christmas” and “enjoy your meal” while they served, but it was those being served that provided the best sentiments. “Thank you for being here,” “we appreciate you,” and “God bless you” were the oft repeated phrases from the diners at the Nashville Rescue Mission.
I was one of the lucky servers at the Mission on a recent chilly Tuesday night who helped serve 525 men an evening meal. I left the Mission feeling as I’ve heard many volunteers state: that I received more than I gave. I said “congratulations” to someone who had just landed a job, I smiled with someone who was excited to see the slice of blueberry pie on his plate, and was thanked countless times for being there. I enjoyed getting to know my fellow volunteers: a mom making sure her young son experiences what giving back really means, a college student home from Atlanta, a couple who just relocated to Nashville, and two ladies who had volunteered previously with the Mission. I have a feeling that they won’t be the only ones to volunteer there again.
Hands On Nashville hosts two dinner service projects every month at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Join us! Click here for more info.