Volunteering: Gaining by Giving

Volunteering adds another layer of richness to life on My Little Farm in Town. Every week involves some form of volunteering. How we volunteer depends on what we are learning, the time available, our interests, and what needs to be done.

My daughter and I volunteer weekly at the local nursing home doing one-on-one visiting; are involved in community service through our 4-H club and home school group; make Midwife Kits for Global Health Ministries at home (see my Dec. 22, 2009 blog); and participate regularly in church activities.

Since moving to this small town 15 years ago, we have had the opportunity to volunteer in a variety of areas:

  • Public Library: shelving and checking books and other materials
  • Friends of the Library: fund-raisers as working  and organizing pie, cookie, and book sales
  • Garden Club: digging, potting and selling for the plant sale and doing civic beautification projects
  • Meals on Wheels: packing meals
  • County Parks: planting prairies, collecting seeds, stewarding trails, tending blue bird and poetry trails, participating in work days, keeping track of volunteer hours, participating in archaeological digs, and collecting prairie seed
  • Public Schools: Tutoring, aid in the classroom, and checking papers when my older children where in public school
  • Home schooling and civic and charity volunteering: Part of our Philosophy of Instruction from the start!
  • Local Events: Century bike rides, Thanksgiving dinners, holiday giving trees, and community celebrations
  • Local Food Pantries and clothes closet : shelving and sorting food and clothing

We have learned a lot while volunteering. I’ve improved my analytical, organizational, and problem solving skills through big volunteer jobs I’ve done. My daughter started visiting at the nursing home with me when she was six years old, we learned together about life and death and faithfulness and people who don’t look or think the way you do, but you love them regardless.  The parks have been like giant laboratories of natural history, botany, and zoology. Through my work with the garden club, I learned the growing habits of all kinds of wild and domestic plants and gained enough skill to grow a diverse variety of plants both edible and ornamental on my own place.

Volunteering is a good way to build a resume and tells prospective employers and educators (college) some very positive things about you.  If your primary job is raising and or educating your children right now, it shows that you have been continuing to hone your people and work skills while you have been doing it. If you are a young person not of an age to be employed, it demonstrates your ability to be disciplined and apply yourself to tasks successfully.

Perhaps most importantly, we made lasting friendships and connections in our community through volunteering.  Meeting people is easy when you are potting plants or serving a Thanksgiving dinner beside them. The transition to a new community is made much more easily when you start contributing to it as soon as you arrive Most people admire, respect, and trust people who freely help others or make the town they live in a better place.

About two paragraphs ago you were probably thinking, “It must be nice to have all that time to do stuff for free—some of us have to make a living.” I have a more flexible schedule than most right now, but a lot of this stuff was done on weekends and an hour here and there when I was working full time in an office. Sometimes it was too wearing, and I had to choose what activity was most important; but a lot of the time, it was hours donated individually when help was most needed (“Just In Time” volunteering!).  Pick one thing that you care about and donate some of your effort to it. You’ll meet some neat people and gain a lot more than you expect. Begonia

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