Extension News: Volunteering can help change your outlook on life

May. 15, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

When was the last time you volunteered? In 2011, 26.4% or 1.9 million North Carolinians volunteered over 228.6 million hours of service in our state. On the average we volunteered right at 32 hours each, which equated to a value of $5 billion of service contributed. Nationally 83.9 million American adults (44% of the population) volunteer. This represents the equivalent of over 9 million full-time employees at a value of $239 billion

  Volunteerism and engagement is important for building strong communities. One of the biggest benefit people gain from volunteering is the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their community and country. While the intangible benefits alone—such as pride, satisfaction and accomplishment—are worthwhile reasons to serve, research shows volunteering a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) can increase your well being by developing a larger circle of friends, reducing anxiety and depression, improving self-esteem, increasing mental functions, lowering mortality rates, improving your immune system, helping with weight control and reducing your blood pressure.

  As you look about our county you will find a long list of places you can volunteer. Volunteer activities can be long term while others can be short and quick. Start your search by matching your skills and interest with an agency, civic group or nonprofit. Talk with your family and friends and ask them for suggestions. Watch the news, both print and radio, for volunteer opportunities. And think “outside of the box” you might just find a place to volunteer that you would never of thought of.

  A new online resource, VolunteerLee.com, is up and running and can connect you with organizations throughout Lee County that need help. Created by a broad coalition of community groups and led by the United Way, VolunteerLee.com connects volunteers with organizations throughout Lee County that desperately need help. As the summer months start many organizations that work with families and children will need the help of dedicated volunteers. Take the time to register with VolunteerLee.com and lend your help to our community supported organizations.

  So now that I have you thinking about volunteering…I want to share what Extension has to offer. As an educational outreach of North Carolina State and A&T State universities we rely on over 200 volunteers to help us deliver and promote our educational programs in Lee County. Master Gardeners, Extension and Community Association (ECA) members, 4-H Leaders and Advisory Committee members are our traditional volunteers, but we can always use more.

  Throughout the year we have opportunities that require the aid of volunteers and the length of commitment varies. For instance Extension works closely with the Lee Regional Fair and we are seeking volunteers to serve on the Advisory Committee. This committee will meet two times, attend the Fair and then give input on how to improve our Fair for the following year. Other opportunities at the fair include assisting with the judging and various events we sponsor. In addition to the Fair we have many other opportunities for volunteers. So if you have just retired or are sitting home alone and perhaps feeling a bit blue, call Cooperative Extension and find out how volunteering can help change your outlook on life.

  Susan Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.