The Value of Volunteering

Enriching your community will enrich your life.

The day I walked into the back room of Ragamuffin’s, nearly six years ago, changed my life. I had no idea, when I showed up to volunteer on the Promotions Committee for Gardiner Main Street, that this would happen. I sought only to share my creativity and event-planning experience, to get involved and help grow and promote our downtown.

The focus of our committee is to organize and run special events, to bring people to downtown Gardiner, so they – in turn – can support our local businesses and get to know how great our city is. Some events include: Game Night, Spring Celebration with Easter Egg Hunt, River Fest, Swine & Stein, Shop Small Saturday, Days of Light, the Annual Tree Lighting & Parade of Lights, as well as our monthly meet & greets. We also offered support to others, who ran Art Walk & Music Walk Events. As you can see, there were volunteer opportunities a plenty. In addition to helping plan events, I’ve hosted haunted story-telling events, donned an elf hat and shoes, led the caroling at the tree lighting, painted props, built fairy houses, baked a lot of cookies, sold a lot of raffle tickets and so much more.

I have also met so very many people; I may otherwise never have known. I have gotten to know many of our area community leaders, business owners and staff members, and have developed lasting friendships with some of my fellow volunteers. Being a friendly person, I’m acquainted with a lot of people. I consider many to be friends. I have definitely found my tribe, through my involvement and volunteering. These are the kind of people who are the first to reach out to a friend, or organization, in need.

In addition to the wonderful people one meets volunteering there are other benefits. It feels good to give of yourself. Sometimes it’s the joy of knowing something you’ve done has made a difference in someone’s life. It could be the rush of endorphins your body experiences from the physical exertion of helping set up or break down an event. It may be the happiness you see on the face of someone who’s been shut in, when you bring them a hot meal and a little company. Helping with annual roadside clean up gives a sense of pride. It could be something like that, which takes only a few hours a year. Giving of yourself should feel like a blessing, not a burden. To avoid burn out, we should each do only what we can comfortably do.

Even in these times of social distancing, when there are fewer in-person events, non-profit organizations are still finding creative ways to raise funds. Reach out and see how you can help. By helping them, you in turn have a hand in their efforts to help others. And believe me, every small gift you give, whether of money, of your time, of yourself, is appreciated now more than ever. And you never know who you might meet. Giving the effort to help others, not only changes their lives, it can change yours.

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