Volunteering to Make a Difference

One Student Realizes Importance of Helping Others After Experience at Charity Bike Race

VolunteeringThere was a time when I thought that volunteering was simply a part of community service. People volunteer or do community to impress schools he or she wishes to attend or in order to fulfill a certain amount of hours for being caught party­ing a little too hard off campus. Maybe it is so that one fulfills her sorority’s requirements or because the university makes ev­ery club and organization pitch in for the Big Event. Regardless, no one volunteers without an ul­terior motive.

About a year ago, I found my­self with a brand new internship at the Multiple Sclerosis Soci­ety. I did typical intern things: I stuffed envelopes, ran labels, and ran errands around town. But I had one other thing I was required to do; attend the events that the organization held.

During the events, I mostly ran left and right but there was a few times when I had the chance to speak with the event partici­pants, volunteers, or those living with the disease.

It was overwhelming. Here were people all around me to­gether for one cause. They were all working toward the same goal, all there not because they had to be, but because they want­ed to be.

To the girl who had never vol­unteered a day in her life and never felt a need to, seeing all of these people investing time, money, and emotion into this event blew me away.

There is a plethora of reasons that one should volunteer. It is no longer necessary for a volunteer to be someone affected by the cause, working off community service hours, or someone trying to get into college or to put their experience on a resume. Volun­teering has so many benefits, es­pecially for a college student.

The traditional reason to vol­unteer is for the emotional aspect of it. Simply put, volunteering makes your mind, body, and soul feel good. In many cases you are helping someone who cannot help himself.

During the first event that I helped with, a bike ride, I was standing around, cleaning up a bit while the bike riders were out on the route. A man came up to me and asked my name.

He then said, “Morgan, I want to thank you. I am living with MS and it’s people like you who give me hope that we might one day find a cure. Everything you do here today brings us one step closer.”

It made me feel like the Grin­ch. My heart grew three sizes in that moment. Again, this is com­ing from the girl who thought volunteering was for brown nos­ers and delinquents trying to clear their name. I vowed to vol­unteer or do something to give my time to worthy causes in any way possible at least once every year from then on.

Another reason to volunteer is for the benefit of networking. I cannot stress this enough. If you are not going to volunteer to make friends or because you are passionate about the cause it sup­ports, volunteer and get involved in a charitable organization be­cause the networking opportuni­ties are unmatched.

The people I have met through volunteering are not only simply amazing people, but people who could help me later in my career. I know CEOs and presidents of large companies, community leaders, and other notable people across the country. All of these people know my name and face, as well as that I have made a com­mitment to a passion that they share. Also, the society I volun­teered for has agreed to hire me full time once I graduate.

Apart from making a differ­ence and networking, the chance to make friends is another rea­son why more people should volunteer. You are working with people who have a common goal which is to help or end or cure something.

That is a connection that you simply cannot get by solely meeting someone at work or on campus. It is a real, no issues, no ulterior motive friendship which is hard to find these days, but they do exist.

While volunteering might not be as cool or as glamorous as spending your day off at a theme park, the beach, or the bar, it is more admirable than any of those things. You are not helping someone (other than your golden tan) by going to the beach, or helping your career by going to the bar (usually the opposite).

While you might make some new friends at a theme park, you will have a bit more of a heart to heart connection with the friends you make while volunteering. With this in mind, the next time you get that Facebook invite to join a friend’s breast cancer walk, do not dismiss it so quick­ly. You never know where it may take you.

PHOTO TAKEN by Morgan Hollingsworth