More Than Just a Resume Builder
What’s the best way to make a difference in your community, feel good about yourself, and pick up some valuable experience?
What’s the best way to make a difference in your community, feel good about yourself, and pick up some valuable experience? You guessed it: volunteering! If you haven’t already, you may want to consider donating some of your own time to a cause you’re interested in. Volunteer service will look great on your resumé, of course, but it has other benefits as well!
Make New Friends. What better way to make friends than by working with people who are donating their time to the same cause as you? Volunteering gives you the perfect opportunity to meet people who have similar values and interests.
Explore Your Interests. One of the best ways to test the waters of a career field is by volunteering. If you’re interested in being a vet, try volunteering at an animal shelter and seeing how well you interact with the animals. Want to check out the medical field? Volunteering at a hospital could give you a feel for the general environment and a chance to see things from an insider’s perspective.
Learn New Skills. No matter what the volunteer work entails, you’re likely to learn how to do something new, or at least strengthen an existing skill. Some volunteering opportunities require you to take charge of a group of people—this builds leadership skills. Some might require you to work on your own to complete a task—perfect for building your problem-solving skills and learning to work independently.
We contacted a few local organizations to find out more about volunteering, the role of volunteers, and how to get involved. Pretty much every community has a humane shelter, senior center, charity, or other organization that relies on volunteers to keep things running- make sure to research opportunities in your area!
What responsibilities do your volunteers have?
- Cindy Chapman, Volunteer Coordinator at the Montgomery Humane Society: Volunteers do whatever is needed to help care for our animals. They walk dogs, replenish water, clean cages, do laundry, bathe puppies, and more.
- Chacolby Burns-Johnson, Director of Development at the Montgomery Area Council on Aging (MACOA): We need Meals on Wheels drivers to help deliver meals to homebound seniors in our community. We have volunteers known as Meal Makers who help our kitchen staff assemble the meals our drivers pick up. Other opportunities include packaging pet food we offer for the four legged companions of clients, baking birthday cakes to celebrate senior birthdays, making frozen meals for those on the waiting list, and seasonal opportunities to assemble and deliver holiday meals for seniors.
- Mendie Nord, Vice President of Branding and Communications at River Region United Way: For special events like our annual “United Way Days of Action,” volunteers help elementary-age students with fun reading-related activities as part of a summer literacy camp to help decrease summer learning loss.
What skills can be built by working with your organization?
- Cindy: Most of what volunteers do here is labor. It doesn’t require a lot of skill, just a willingness to get your hands dirty. Volunteers learn to be self-starting and do what needs to be done.
- Chacolby: Our volunteers become more empathetic. They also enhance their leadership and communication skills.
- Mendie: Volunteers build teamwork and social skills when working with United Way.
How much difference do your volunteers really make?
- Cindy: We have very few employees compared to the number of animals we have, so volunteer help is invaluable. We couldn’t do what we do without them.
- Chacolby: Volunteers are the heartbeat of MACOA! We depend on compassionate people throughout our community to join us in ensuring no senior goes hungry. Volunteers keep our mission in motion.
- Mendie: Simply put, we would not be able to positively impact the lives of nearly 135,000 people every year if we had to rely solely on our staff. Volunteers are essential.
Are there any misconceptions about volunteering you’d like to clear up?
- Cindy: If someone imagines that volunteering at our shelter will involve them just rolling around on the floor with puppies, they would be wrong. Volunteering is hard work and requires a time commitment. We ask that volunteers be willing and able to donate at least 6 hours per month for a year.
- Chacolby: Sometimes people assume Meals on Wheels is a daily commitment, or requires several hours. Volunteering with us is actually very flexible and manageable. It’s perfect for businesses, church groups, civic organizations, students, and anyone looking for a service project or team-building experience.
- Mendie: You don’t have to be an expert. There’s a lot to be said for someone with a positive attitude and a willing heart.
What advice do you have for someone who is nervous about volunteering for the first time?
- Kaylin Finch, Volunteer at the Montgomery Humane Society: It’s worth it! Regardless of who you are, what you look like, or what you’ve done in the past, the animals will not judge you. They just want you to love them.
- Katie Perkins, Volunteer at the Montgomery Humane Society: If you’re thinking about volunteering, I’d say go for it! I’ve made many friends, and some of my best memories happened at the shelter.
- Chacolby: All of us are hesitant to try new things at first, but becoming a volunteer is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have. Most organizations, including MACOA, offer training to help you become more comfortable with your responsibilities, so don’t let fear of the unknown deter you.
- Mendie: The nonprofit staff or lead volunteer will not expect you to know everything, so don’t hesitate to speak up when you have questions.