Do you volunteer?
As we begin National Volunteer Week, I thought back to my “early days” of volunteering. In the Barber family, 13 was the magic age to begin volunteering. A girl had two options: be a candy striper at St. Vincents or volunteer at the Barber Center. It’s probably no surprise that I chose the Barber Center! In those days, I was the “extra-extra helper” who did whatever the teacher and aide needed at the moment. Over the years, as I gained more experience with volunteering, I was given more responsibility. Back then, the Barber Center was located at the former TB hospital at 136 East Avenue. It consisted of 4 classrooms on the first floor; the second floor was for adults; the basement doubled as a cafeteria and our PT area. I worked with pre-school children who were hearing impaired as well as children with intellectual disabilities and physical challenges. Classroom size was so much larger than today – I remember there being 18-20 children in each class! Certainly, they needed as many hands as they could get!
In many ways, I truly believe that these early volunteer experiences shaped me into the person I am today – much like I feel that Ryan’s volunteer experience at Bello’s has influenced him. It was because of my volunteer work at BNI that I chose to study special education after college. (Of course, my Aunt Gertrude Barber was a strong influence as well!) Whether or not you are lucky enough to volunteer in your future career, volunteering is a great way to gain exposure to a variety of industries, meet potentially influential people, build relationships, and begin to establish a network of professional contacts.
But the benefits of volunteering don’t end there. Volunteering:
- Gives you a sense of purpose
- Establishes strong relationships
- Benefits your community, and society at large
In fact, studies show that volunteers live longer and are healthier – what more can you ask for?
The best part is, it’s never too late to start volunteering. There are several great resources online nowadays, making it easier than ever to get involved. I promise, you’ll get more back than you ever imagined!