Helping your fellow neighbor doesn’t only need to be during the holiday season. Giving back is something one can do all year long. In case you’re wondering what’s in it for you, studies show that 100 volunteer hours per year yield a positive and tangible impact on one’s happiness. That breaks down to about 2 hours per week or 8 hours per month.
I recently found an opportunity to volunteer at Woodstock Senior Center, a food shelter for low-income individuals and the elderly. The service was approximately three hours and asked that volunteers help prepare lunch and socialize to provide a pleasant experience for those in need.
A Day in the Life
My fiancé and I arrived in the morning. We were immediately asked to wear hair nets and gloves, advocating for food safety. This is always a great sign of any facility, even if only participating in a volunteer food service. Next, as we walked through the kitchen, we helped a team of three other volunteers to individually wrap slices of bread and a cube of butter. Then, we washed and individually wrapped oranges. Finally, before serving lunch, we prepped our station with milk, cutlery, fruit, and bread. That way, once everyone came to collect their meals, we were able to serve quickly and efficiently.
After prepping, we had 20 minutes of “down time” before the start of the food service. We took this time to connect with the other volunteers. We discussed our backgrounds and why we enjoy giving back to our community. It was a really beautiful experience to be in the company of humans who enjoy serving others. There are times I forget why I give back, or even push off scheduling other volunteer events, but every time I’m there, I always remember why. I love helping people.
Lunch started promptly at 12:00pm. One of the men who works at the facility was calling numbers from 1 to 200, which encourages a fair, organized system for all to enjoy. One by one, men and women of all ages came to claim their meals. My job during the service was to take orders and hand trays to each of the individuals. I thoroughly enjoyed this role as I was able to personally interact with everyone.
Some just asked for their orders, while others would crack a joke or compliment my smile. But every time, without a doubt, everyone said “thank you.” These two words melted my heart. Nearly every day at my job or the local deli, I see people taking things without showing any gratitude. These individuals may not have much to claim monetarily, but you can tell that each of these people are humble, grateful, and caring.
How can you participate?
Serving food may not be everyone’s forte, but luckily there are hundreds of thousands of causes and events that can use your help. Two hours per week may sound like a lot, but what about a commitment once a month? Or quarterly? Or instead, volunteer your time with the ones you love most by completing errands from your spouse’s “to do” list or helping a friend move into their new apartment. Yes, there is a cost in time, but what you get back after helping someone amounts to much more.
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