Volunteering has been shown to improve mental and physical functionality, lower rates of depression and heart disease, and increase longevity, not to mention add to your quality of life and improve self-esteem and confidence.
“There are so many studies about how volunteering helps with depression and socialization,” says Marcia Long, Director of Volunteer Services at EvergreenHealth. “When we get out and serve others, we get a psychological boost that can also give us an overall physical boost. Plus, volunteering is fun, and when we’re having fun, our attitude naturally improves.”
Volunteering doesn’t just benefit older adults. At the other end of the spectrum, Marcia has seen shy, unsure teenagers come into their own as they take on some responsibility and accountability with volunteer duties.
“It gives them a sense of confidence as they see firsthand the difference they’re making. It’s a feeling of satisfaction and acceptance some are experiencing for the first time,” she says.
Volunteering also provides a natural training ground for developing life skills such as communication, leadership and conflict management.
And, at EvergreenHealth, some teens also benefit from informal mentoring with volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 93. “Some have taken the younger volunteers under their wings,” Marcia says. “A few even do things together, like go to the theater. It’s great to see that cross-generational connection.”
Volunteering is great, too, for those in the middle stage of life, particularly for people currently out of work.
For the unemployed, volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and lessen discouragement or depression. And it can aid a job search by adding to your experience, providing structure, building your network and showing initiative.
In some cases, it can even lead to a job right where you’re volunteering. “We’ve hired for positions straight from our volunteer base,” Marcia adds.
Perhaps one of the best benefits of volunteering is the support system you develop when you work alongside people who share a common goal.
Marcia says men’s coffee groups, women’s lunch groups and more have emerged among her volunteer groups.
According to Marcia, “The volunteers are like an extended family to each other.”
Learn more about volunteering at EvergreenHealth, and apply online, at evergreenhealth.com/volunteer.
There are numerous places you can volunteer: libraries, schools, senior centers, animal shelters, museums and health-related organizations.
Not sure where to begin? Check out these organizations for ideas of how and where you can volunteer in the Greater Seattle area: