Volunteerism As A Place to Build A Community

volunteer
Lorie Kleiner Eckert

By Lorie Kleiner Eckert | Oct 20th, 2019

Want to become rich in friends? Try doing volunteer work! I learned this lesson from my mom, Rose Kleiner. Mom was not the sort of woman who went out to lunch with girlfriends on a regular basis. Nor was she the type to rotate Saturday nights out with a long list of couples. Indeed, she and Dad went out every single weekend – and even vacationed – with the same couple. So how was I to know that she had scads of friends? You can imagine my surprise therefore, when I was ushered into her funeral in 2002 and realized that it was a standing-room-only affair. Who were all those people? They were the friends she made during her 35 years of volunteer work at her temple. Like the Cheers bar in the sitcom of the same name, the temple was the place where everyone knew Mom’s name. I will boast and say that two rabbis chose to eulogize Mom at her funeral and that two other clergymen chose to be part of the service as well. I will further say that our family received more than 200 donations in Mom’s memory in the days following her death. Clearly, Rose Kleiner had lots of friends.

For anyone who would like to follow Mom’s formula to this kind of wealth, I turn your attention to a fabulous website, VolunteerMatch.org. Please note, you will be required to set up an account, giving them an email address and a password. In return you will get access to their site that:

The two drawbacks to this organization are that it operates in only 35 of the United States and that it does not have an international reach. However, my purpose in sending you to this site is meaningful for anyone, anywhere. First, it will get you thinking about the vast number of volunteer opportunities available. Second, it will give you a way to break down that number of jobs into manageable pieces that are meaningful to you. With this information in hand, you can then do a Google search for the type of position that sounds most exciting and that exists in your area.

There are a vast number of volunteer opportunities

I will be a namedropper here as I give you a dozen of the 748 non-profits that pop up on my screen when I search Volunteer Match for my current residence in Ohio: Chamber of Commerce, Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, Cincinnati Parks, Civil Air Patrol, Autism Society, Women Helping Women, Children’s Home, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Cincinnati Museum Center, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, Mental Health America of SW Ohio, and Council on Child Abuse. 

My purpose in listing these specific names is to get you thinking about the scads of non-profits that exist and to let you know that they are looking for YOU.

How to categorize the job possibilities

As Volunteer Match gets ready to offer up the perfect volunteer opportunity for you, your first choice is between “Local” and “Virtual” jobs. With the local ones, you go to a physical location to do the work. The virtual tasks can be done from your computer at home. Since I am suggesting volunteer work as a means to make new friends, I will focus on the local jobs. In Cincinnati, there were 541. To further pinpoint the perfect job, there are twenty-nine “Cause Areas” to consider. Here’s a handful of them:

When I clicked into a sixth Cause Area, “Hunger” wanting a local job, I got 56 choices. These included working a shift at the FreeStore Foodbank; preparing meals at the Ronald McDonald House; and delivering Meals on Wheels – and even pet food – to homebound seniors. 

And don’t these opportunities sound like fun? I can work at a film festival that benefits a group called Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled. Or I can work the concession stand at professional baseball, football and/or ice hockey games to benefit a group called Simply United Together. And here’s a meaningful job – since I like to sew, I can help Vitas Healthcare of Cincinnati make “Memory Bears” out of favorite clothing items for patients and families in hospice care. 

Let me be honest and state that my interest in Volunteer Match is not theoretical. I used it myself at a time when I was suffering from empty nest syndrome and seemed doomed to a life of sobbing on the sofa. Instead, I turned to volunteerism as a hedge against my loneliness. I found work with two different organizations. The first was the local tech school where I worked in Adult Basic Education helping adults learn to read. I also signed on with the March of Dimes where I spent an afternoon each week stuffing envelopes. As I got to know and love the staff at the March of Dimes, I began to help out on-site when they had fund raising events. On a roll with volunteer work I followed in Mom’s footsteps and got involved at my temple. Within six years, I was the president of the women’s auxiliary. The group boasted 600 members. Many of them have become friends and easily a handful of them, dear friends. 

For decades I watched my mom do volunteer work at her temple without understanding what she was really up to. While I thought she was making sales at the temple’s gift shop and/or cataloging books in its library what she was doing instead, was making friends and building a community. 

Want to follow in Mom’s footsteps? There are literally millions of volunteer opportunities available and thus millions of friends-in-waiting. Call a non-profit today!

Lorie Kleiner Eckert

Lorie Kleiner Eckert


Lorie Kleiner Eckert thinks of herself as a cheerleader with the message: Life is difficult, but you can do it! Her new book, Love, Loss, and Moving On is available on Amazon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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