Volunteer for the health of it

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

April might be National Volunteer Month, but volunteering constitutes good business all year long. Consider the numbers.

In 2014, 62.8 million Americans volunteered a total of 7.9 billion hours, time valued at $184 billion. In Colorado, 30.9 percent of residents volunteer — a force of 1.24 million. These volunteers donated 159.5 million hours, $3.7 billion worth of time and efforts.

In Mesa County, United Way reported a total of 2,300 hours of service by volunteers in its last fiscal year, the equivalent of one full-time employee earning $45,000 a year with benefits. In 2014, 1,258 HopeWest volunteers gave total of 80,332 hours of their time. Meanwhile, 164 volunteer coaches spent a total of 8,200 hours working with nearly 800 elementary and middle schools girls as part of the Girls on the Run program.

The hours given to these agencies constitute only a fraction of the volunteer hours donated in our community. Every day, countless individuals in Mesa County donate time to their churches, schools, children’s extracurricular activities and the hundreds of nonprofit organizations that depend on volunteers to keep running.

As representatives of public health and local business, it’s important we support volunteer efforts. Volunteers make our community a healthier place to live. Not only are volunteers improving the life of others through the donation of their time, they’re improving their own health as well. Volunteering makes you feel good.

Girls on the Run likes to call this the “trickle up effect.” In getting girls more physically active, they’re encouraging families to become more active. Many adults increase their physical activity because they “had” to run a 5K with their daughters. This running program geared toward girls encourages entire families to be more active and healthy.  

Volunteering is also good business. Ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies run corporate programs to enable volunteer efforts. “Employees who volunteer are better employees,” said Jessica Rodell, assistant professor of management at the University of Florida Terry College of Business. Research found that employees who volunteer work harder than employees who don’t.

A healthy community builds a strong work force.  When an employee feels mentally and physically strong, they’re more productive and take pride in their work.
A civic-minded community is also attractive to businesses and individuals looking to relocate.

There’s value in volunteering. By giving just a few hours of your time, you have an opportunity to meet new people and make connections, generate positive awareness about your business and feel vested in your community.

How can you support volunteerism in your place of work? Take on a volunteer project as a business or group.  Whether it’s a couple of hours serving food at a shelter or a day spent building a house, here’s an opportunity to not only make a difference in your community, but also get to know the people with which you work. If you’re able, offer a monthly or yearly amount of time available for employees to volunteer. A group of Mesa County Workforce Center employees cooks and serves dinner once a month at Homeward Bound, bringing their families along with them. “It is a great way to serve the community while showing our own children the value of serving others. The individuals and families who stay at Homeward Bound are so appreciative and thankful for us being there,” said Melissa Schierland, a participant.

Create an atmosphere that supports and encourages volunteerism. Chances are, many employees are already involved in some type of volunteering through their family or church. Let them know this work is not only supported, but also appreciated.

Nonprofits are always in need of community professionals to serve on their boards of directors. Businesses people from across sectors offer different perspectives and skills that diversify a board, offering valuable insights and connections needed to run a successful nonprofit organization. Agencies serving youth in our valley depend on adult role models to mentor and tutor. Nonprofits rely on volunteers or discounted services for building maintenance, repairs and landscaping. 

Still need some ideas on where to look for volunteer opportunities? Check out the information offered at http://unitedwaymesacounty.galaxydigital.com/

Whether your business or volunteer efforts are big or small, you can make a difference.