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Volunteering benefits both donors and recipients

Even for those who don’t set New Year’s resolutions, a new year offers a time to reconsider priorities and goals, both for ourselves and our community. If you find yourself doing this, I strongly encourage you to consider volunteering!

While donating time to a cause or organization obviously supports the recipient, research has shown that volunteering also provides amazing benefits to the volunteer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering improves mental and physical health. It fosters vital social networks. HelpGuide.org points out that volunteering can even advance your career. Plus, scientists have shown that it makes us measurably happier!

For a county of only 20,000 residents, Plumas has a huge wealth of volunteer opportunities. However, it’s not always easy to figure out what is available in a given community.

The Community Connections Time Bank, which operated from 2007 to 2018, provided a framework for local individuals and organizations to ask for and offer services, and also track and bank their hours. However, Community Connections unfortunately had to cease operations due to lack of funding.

When this happened, I started a Facebook group, called Plumas County Volunteers, to create a platform for people to continue to share local volunteering news and opportunities. Find it at www.facebook.com/groups/PlumasCountyVolunteers/.

Anyone is welcome to join, and I encourage both organizations and individuals to use the group to offer and request services. I share local volunteering items there as often as I can; it has been amazing for me to see the range of opportunities available to us here in Plumas County!

I plan to use this monthly column to highlight Plumas County organizations in need of volunteers, celebrate volunteerism, and share local volunteers’ stories. Please contact me at [email protected] with any volunteer-related ideas or questions.

Volunteering strengthens our bodies, minds, families, and communities. Keep it up and keep it growing!

Ingrid Burke has been volunteering in Plumas County for the past decade; she moderates the Plumas County Volunteers Facebook page. Contact her at [email protected].

Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering:

– Decreases the risk of depression, especially in the elderly.

– Increases social interaction and helps build a support system.

– Gives a sense of purpose, which may be especially important for youth and the elderly.

– Teaches valuable, marketable job skills.

– Helps volunteers stay active, both physically and mentally.

– Benefits physical health.

– Benefits mental health.

– Improves life satisfaction.

– Improves mood, reduces stress and anxiety (especially when volunteering with animals).

– Offers the chance to practice social skills.

– May increase lifespan.

– Can reduce pain in those with chronic illness.

– Helps you make new friends and strengthen existing relationships.

– Connects you to your community.

– Provides a positive example to others (especially kids).

– Counteracts the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety.

– Makes people measurably happier, based on hormones and brain activity.

– Increases self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

– Confers a sense of pride and identity.

– Reduces the risk for heart disease.

– Reduces the symptoms of a range of illnesses and health conditions.

– Serves as work experience.

– Provides opportunities to practice general job skills such as communication and teamwork.

– Provides a way to share skills.

– Offers professional networking opportunities

Sources: Mayo Clinic Health Systems and HelpGuide.org.

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