Editorial: Helping yourself … by helping others

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 7, 2009

The non-profit agencies that try to help Rowan County’s neediest and most vulnerable citizens need some help themselves. While that’s always true, the recession has decreased financial resources available to most non-profits. Just as many people find it tougher these days to make ends meet, the same goes for agencies trying to help people put food on the table, clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads ó and fulfill a multitude of other missions in our community.
Sunday’s “Sharing the Season” feature in the Salisbury Post had an extensive list of agency needs. If you didn’t at least scan the list over the weekend, it’s worth going back and reading it now. (You can find the story and list at www.salisburypost.com under the “Sharing the Season” link.)
Chances are, even if you can’t make a monetary donation, you have something else of use to these agencies. Maybe it’s some extra craft supplies for Abundant Living Adult Day Service, or some good used housewares for the Family Crisis Council, or table lamps for the Rowan Arts Council or … well, you get the point. The needs are as diverse as the clients served by the agencies.
But here’s one request that almost every agency makes: They need a little bit of your time. Volunteers are the lifeblood of much of the work they do, whether it’s mentoring youth, delivering meals to shutins, training as a guardian ad litem or serving as a tour guide or docent. Without volunteers, many of these agencies couldn’t function ó or would function in a much-diminished way.
You’re familiar with the idea that it feels good to give back to the community. You’ve no doubt often heard the refrain that sharing with those down on their luck makes us more appreciative of the blessings in our own lives. But here’s another reason to volunteer: It may provide the first tentative step toward a new career, avocation or area of interest. With the current high jobless rate, it can be difficult to switch careers or sample new jobs. But volunteerism can be a great way to investigate a new field or see what it feels like to move in a different direction. It can be a way to cultivate your network of contacts, expand your knowledge base and add valuable elements to your resume. It’s a way to try on a new hat without worrying that you may be getting in over your head.
Ideally, people volunteer out of a desire to serve a cause beyond themselves. They recognize a need and simply want to help fill it. That selfless spirit of generosity is a fine and noble motivation. But if, along the way, volunteers also end up helping themselves (and they almost always do), that’s by no means a bad thing. Check out the “Sharing the Season” list and see if there isn’t an avenue you’d like to explore.