Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 18, 2009

Volunteering: It’s a win-win

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.” ~ Carl Sandburg

We all know that times are tough, but one thing that many folks who don’t have much money in this economy do possess is time.

If you find yourself in that situation — unemployed or underemployed, perhaps, thinking that you can’t possibly support the nonprofit agencies that are so important to our community — remember that you can still give the gift of your time and energy.

While donations of money are always appreciated, donations of time benefit not only the volunteer group but also the volunteer. Studies have shown that volunteering creates positive effects on volunteers of all ages, including improved sense of well-being, academic improvement, personal growth and enhanced self-esteem.

You’re more likely to begin to volunteer — and to stick with it — if you match a volunteer opportunity with something that you’re passionate about. Love to be outdoors? Maintain parks or trails. Love animals? Help at an animal shelter. Love sports? Coach a team or manage a charity running event.

Personally, I’m passionate about writing, access to information and critical thinking. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that I volunteer on behalf of the Morgan Hill Library. I’m a past president of the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library, and have co-founded, with Emily Shem-Tov, the Morgan Hill Library Foundation to support the long-term needs of the library.

The Morgan Hill Library Foundation presents the annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Day event. This volunteer-run sudoku and crossword puzzle tournament is held each February (our next Puzzle Day will be on  February 20 and 21, 2010; details are online at svpuzzle.org).

We also sponsor a fun volunteer-run event created by the American Institute of Mathematics and Morgan Hill Math, Morgan Hill Math Game Nights. Game Nights is a monthly free gathering where participants play a game of skill or logic. Game Nights are held the last Wednesday of each month (March to October) from 7 to 8:30 in the El Toro Room of the Morgan Hill Community Center. This month’s event is set for Wednesday, Aug. 26, and we’ll be playing Scrabble. More information is available online at morganhillmath.org/games.

I’m also passionate about current events and politics — and I serve on the editorial boards of the Morgan Hill Times and the Gilroy Dispatch, debating those topics with other involved and well-informed community members.

See how my volunteer activities match my passions?

If you’re looking for a way to match your passions with a volunteer opportunity, circle Saturday, Sept. 12, on your calendar. That day, South County has two volunteer fairs that can help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity for your interests, skills and schedule.

The current class of Leadership Morgan Hill is holding a Volunteer Faire on September 12 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Community and Cultural Center. More than 30 groups — from the American Association of University Women, the American Red Cross, the Pine Ridge Association, and many more — will be on hand to describe how their groups improve the community and ways that you can help.

“We think of it as a volunteer trade show,” Victor Gaxiola, a member of the Leadership Morgan Hill Class of 2009, said. “We’re optimistic that this will become an annual event.”

More information about the Morgan Hill event is available at volunteermorganhill.org.

The current class of Leadership Gilroy takes its turn that afternoon, with a similar event dubbed Go Gilroy, being held from 1 pm to 4 pm at Las Animas Park. Go Gilroy is aimed at teens aged 15 to 18. After teens complete a volunteer passport by visiting the booths of nonprofit organizations like Go Kids, Saint Joseph’s Family Services, the Gilroy Youth Commission and more, they can watch and participate in lots of fun activities.

“Go Gilroy is a way to help kids feel good and do good,” Kathy Bisbee, a member of the Leadership Gilroy Class of 2009, said. “It encompasses health and volunteerism.”

More information about the Gilroy event is available at gogilroy.com.

Want to feel better about yourself? Want to have a positive influence on your community? Want to make new friends? Want to indulge your passions? It’s easy and free: Volunteer.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else.” ~  Benjamin Franklin

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