Column: How to plug in and volunteer

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Commentary by Cindy Benedict

Benedict

Benedict

The last three weeks have been pretty active on the volunteer front in Noblesville. More than 650 volunteers (including Mayor John and Teri Ditslear) helped with just three events – SERVE Noblesville, the Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks Festival, and the Noblesville Street Dance. This doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteers who regularly serve every week with nonprofits like Riverview Health, Hamilton County Meals on Wheels, Noblesville Schools, or Prevail, Inc. Clearly, a lot of people volunteer in our community and yet….

Statistics show that we have some room for improvement. On the 2013 Noblesville Citizen Survey, 38 percent of our residents self-reported volunteering at least once that year for some group or activity in Noblesville. We compare very well against national data where 28 percent of all Hoosiers and 31 percent of suburban Hoosiers volunteered at least once in the year. Indiana is ranked 24th in the country on volunteer engagement representing 189.7 million hours of service. Pretty impressive but it still means that 62 percent of our adults are potential volunteers.

Maybe you’ve thought about helping but weren’t sure how to start. Over the years I’ve developed a quick checklist to help people figure out where to plug in.

■ Do you like people, pets, or desks? I find that most of us know if we prefer working with humans, animals, or behind the scenes work at a desk or computer. Deciding this first can eliminate lots of jobs, making it easier to find a great volunteer fit.

■ Do you do “hidden” volunteering? Many people help at their church, for a sports team, or at their child’s school. Frequently they don’t count that as volunteering because they don’t think of it that way. Basic rule – if you help an organization outside of your home or work and aren’t paid for it, you are a volunteer. Congratulations.

■ These are also great places to start volunteering. Schools, civic groups, faith organizations, and homeowners associations are only as strong as their volunteers, so help them out.

■ Check your calendar – be realistic on what you can do at this stage of your life. It might be an hour a week, or a three-hour chunk each month, or helping with just one event a year. Be realistic but also step out with whatever you can do.

■ Solo or with your family? You’ll need different opportunities if you want to volunteer as a family. Helping in a food pantry is a good family event – just make sure your kids are old enough to last at least an hour and are able to do some light lifting.

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferences, factor in your passions (gardening, mentoring, fun events) and then you can usually just “Google it” to find organizations. However, I’m also available to Noblesville residents to help them noodle through opportunities, so feel free to give me a call.

Cindy Benedict is the manager of Vision Noblesville. She may be contacted at 770-2007 or cbenedict@noblesville.in.us. Learn more at www.VisionNoblesville.com. 

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