Living Life: Volunteerism

By Dianne Smith
Reader Columnist

“You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” 

     —Winston Churchill

As the volunteer education and youth liaison for Sandpoint Community Resource Center I have the pleasure of connecting with many of the wonderful 150 nonprofits in Sandpoint. We have so many awesome opportunities to give back to our community and summer is a great time to give back. Choose a one time opportunity or volunteer on a weekly basis, as there are many opportunities for both.

Dianne Smith.

With very busy lives, it can often be hard to find time to volunteer. There are so many benefits though for you and the community. The right match can help reduce stress, find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills and even advance your career. Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health and researchers have found that human beings are hard-wired to give to others. Giving makes us feel good both mentally and physically and the more we give, the happier we feel. Who wouldn’t like to feel happier? Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person.

Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and meaning. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new purpose and meaning in their lives by helping others. For teens and young adults, volunteering can help them grow as people and learn about others; as well it looks good on resumes and college applications. For families, volunteering together provides bonding time and a sense of connection as well as building great childhood memories. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest and meaning to your life.

If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience and is a way to meet people in the field. Places often like to hire their volunteers when jobs open because they already know the program and are familiar with the job. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management and organization.

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available and North Idaho has so many wonderful organizations. The key to a successful volunteer experience is to find a position you would enjoy and where you will feel good. One way to find local organizations who might be seeking volunteers is to go to the Sandpoint Community Resource Center’s webpage which serves both Bonner and Boundary County.  Using the self-help directory which is awesome if you are looking for help, search under the area where you have some interest.  You will find services and programs that provide all types of opportunities. Want to work with teens? There is the Sandpoint Teen Center, or you can mentor a student at the local alternative high school. If you enjoy working with the elderly, there are senior centers and assisted living facilities. If you want to work with budding young artists, offer to provide an art class for Creations at the end of the Cedar Bridge. What a wonderful way to role model for your children how to give back to the community.

Volunteers and helping others are an essential part of any thriving community. In North Idaho there are so many wonderful opportunities where I see people reach out to help and give to others in such a caring and supportive way. Volunteering can only make our communities a better place to live and raise children. Look around and see where you can give back even if it is only a onetime thing. The benefits to you and others are great.

Dianne Smith, LMFT is a licensed counselor who works with both children and adults.  She has offices in Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint and can be reached at 951-440-0982.

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