Volunteering for Health
Happy MLK Day! With Martin Luther King Jr. being celebrated today, it reminded me of the volunteer opportunities in our community. Volunteering is not only good for the greater community but in many cases, it can also positively benefit individual health. This wellness blog will highlight some of the important health benefits of volunteerism, both mental and physical.
According to a passage found on the King Center’s website written by Coretta Scott King, “Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not only for celebration, remembrance, education, and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, to tutor those who can’t read, mentor at-risk youngsters, console the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.” The holiday always serves as a great reminder of the importance of volunteerism. There is no debate that volunteerism is good for the community, but let’s take a look at some of the positive health implications that come with volunteering.
Volunteering often gets the community on their feet and active. One example of this is community gardening. In addition to the health benefits of the fresh produce that your garden will produce, the volunteers engage in physical activity. According to a Harvard University study, 30 minutes of gardening can burn as many calories as a variety of other activities. If your community has a community garden, encourage people to volunteer at it! Although the weather may be too cold, now is the perfect time to start getting the word out about volunteering in the spring. Try highlighting these health benefits as well in your marketing efforts. For information on starting a community garden program in your community, check out the program idea on the wellness toolkit.
A department-wide volunteer day can also be beneficial. If your community has a park or area that is in need of some upkeep, hold a volunteer day where different departments come together to help in the cleanup. From personal experience volunteer events like this are great for team-building, and also are a great chance for some exercise. You could even try reaching out to a neighboring department to see if they have any upcoming programs or special events that require volunteers. Not only would this help another department, but will also give insight on how their programs are run.
Another option for group community volunteering is partnering with an existing volunteer-based organization, such as Habitat for Humanity. I really have enjoyed volunteering with Habitat and they can often accommodate large groups. Not only does a large build give you a great workout, but helping build a home for a family in need made me feel extremely proud. To find a Habitat for Humanity location near you, go to this website and type in your zip code.
In many of our departments, youth athletic leagues are coached by volunteer coaches. These leagues are extremely valuable for youth development and health, and could not be successful without the countless volunteer coaches. On this day of volunteerism, recognizing our department volunteers is very important. One way to both recognize and help strengthen volunteer coaches is to hold a volunteer coaching clinic. At these coaching clinics, proper methods for coaching our youth can be discussed. Extraordinary coaching jobs can then be recognized in hopes that the behavior can be mirrored in other coaches. Be sure to stress the importance of their role in community health, and that your athletic league would not be the same without them.
Personally, volunteering makes me feel good. Helping those who are less fortunate & helping to preserve our world’s natural beauty allows me time to reflect on things that I am thankful for. According to an article published by Time.com, volunteering is good for mental health. The article states that “volunteering may provide a sense of purpose” and help maintain social networks. The Time article also points to a study by PsycNet that suggested individuals over the age of 50 who volunteer regularly are less likely to developed high-blood pressure than individuals who do not volunteer.
On this Martin Luther King day, think about all of the reasons that volunteering is good for your mental, physical, and community health. Even if you are not volunteering today, this reflection time can guide you in the right direction for the future.
Until next time,