Find Time to Give Back

by | G+ Amy Leger

Last night I got back from our big annual meeting for the Raising our Celiac Kids Twin Cities Chapter and I left ready for action: inspired, energized and ready to “keep up the good fight”!  And — no — I didn’t feel this way because yesterday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) was a national day of service.  But just seeing and talking with all of these people who are deeply involved in the same celiac issues gets my blood pumping; and I’m ready to see what else I can do to help. I leave meetings like that the way I leave the gym after a good workout!

Making Time for Your Cause

Because I invest a lot of time and effort into our annual Making Tracks for Celiacs fundraiser walk/run, I have, in the past, tuned out other volunteer opportunities or events because I’m a bit spent. But tonight I found my mind going – there were so many events to get involved in within our group: Gluten-Free Fun Camp, Summer Picnic, plus new “breaking” opportunities involving gluten-free product testing. But also other opportunities with committees that stress awareness like our education and website committees. What to do?

I am organizing the Making Tracks for Celiacs event this year, and getting paid for it so clearly that is a priority for me, but doing that job means I am no longer “volunteering” — right? I can’t be at the camp because of a previous commitment. But I feel there should be something more I can do – on a volunteer basis. Research on Americans and volunteerism is pretty impressive. According to the World Volunteer Web, in 2007 Americans donated 8.1 billion hours of service which is worth more than $158 billion in communities in the US.  Maybe I could contribute a handful of hours to that number this year.

A publication by the Corporation for National and Community Service looked at many studies which suggest there actually are health benefits to volunteering, “…volunteering has a positive effect on social psychological factors, such as one’s sense of purpose. In turn, positive social psychological factors are correlated with lower risks of poor physical health.”

How can you get involved?

Are you involved in a celiac support group? Last fall I blogged about becoming a “support group groupie“, which helps you get to know people with similar interests — in this case your celiac community. This could be a way for you to get more involved. From my experience, so many organizations (celiac or not) need good, reliable volunteers. And often they have many different areas and interests where you can really use your strengths: IT, public speaking, finance, and administration just to name a few. Ask yourself how can you contribute – or make a difference? What are your passions? It may not be a “medical cause” like celiac but rather another organization you believe in (theater, music, education, sports).

So this post isn’t meant to make anyone feel guilty or even suggest your health will deteriorate if you don’t volunteer. But there is more to volunteering than “people wanting something from you”. It’s about giving and receiving: Giving your time, money or participation and receiving the love, friendship, bond and sense of purpose that comes with your commitment. It is a worthwhile journey worth taking.

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