By Rozi Rice
I became a Volunteer Coordinator for Jewish Community Services fairly late in my career. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to leave the corporate world behind in my search for something more meaningful. Little did I know the impact it would have on my life and the new direction it has taken me for the past 13 years.
Over the years, I have recruited, trained, and provided volunteers for many different types of programs. I have worked with teenagers, older adults, and families that share many of the same traits – they all want to help other people and to make a difference. It sounds simple but the difference that they make is often greater to themselves than the service they provide.
It doesn’t matter what type of volunteer opportunity you accept or the amount of time that it takes. To me, there is no scale of what is more important or of greater value for most volunteering. The real value is just showing up, especially in person, whenever possible, to participate in service for or with your community. It shows that you care that there is a need and you are there to offer your help.
If you are already involved in volunteering, it is important to talk about it with your children and to set an example for them to model. It is helpful to find an age-appropriate family volunteer opportunity that you can participate in together. Try to choose something that you think your children will enjoy and talk about it before you go. Many families will make it a routine to attend Community Service Days, Charitable Walks/Marathons, or School & Toy Drives as an inclusive activity they can enjoy together. For your family, even the preparation and anticipation can be part of the fun.
The benefits of volunteering to your family and to your children are manifold. Studies have shown that it fosters empathy and acceptance of people not often present in their daily lives. It gives perspective to their life and encourages gratitude for the blessings in their lives that are often taken for granted. More importantly, it is an opportunity to do something together where the impact will be greater than their own enjoyment. It is a healthy activity, that can be a lot of fun, and feels good because it will make a real difference in the lives of other people. As a fact, volunteers are positive, kind, and caring people. What better character traits can you teach your children?
I regret that I did not involve my now adult children in volunteering at an earlier age. However, it is never too late and I intend to begin with my grandchildren whenever I can. Volunteering can change you by letting you see that life is not the same for everyone, but we all want and deserve the same basic needs. It is the very definition of Tikkun Olam, Repair the World. I believe that volunteering is a legacy and a gift that you give your family of a life lesson of service and compassion for people less fortunate.
Rozi Rice is a Volunteer Coordinator at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.