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Volunteers must help themselves, too

One of my many interesting past jobs was as executive director of the Senior Center of Boulder City between 2003 and 2005. This was a rewarding position and I loved working with the seniors. But it was frustrating that much of the daily work was performed by volunteers. Finding willing and able volunteers in a small community was a daily responsibility.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has published numbers regarding volunteering in America. It found that 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours in 2014. It did some stats and found that young Americans, ages 35-44, make up almost 32 percent of the volunteer force. Yet the ones putting in the most hours were seniors 65 and older.

Volunteering is an American blessing and a way for retired folk to contribute to their community. However, I noticed at the senior center that there were many volunteers who didn’t know how to say “No!” They volunteered many days of the week, to several different organizations, and soon burned themselves out. Some felt obligated through church and philanthropic organizations to contribute volunteer hours and local schools required community service to graduate.

There are many rewards for volunteering, including a sense of doing good, being recognized within the community and increased feelings of self-worth. However, volunteering comes at a price and can take on a life of its own. Volunteering can easily progress from a once-a-week obligation to an almost full-time, unpaid position.

If you do decide to volunteer, balance your commitment with family and personal time. You do not have to do it all. Let others take on their fair share and learn to say, “No, sorry, can’t do it this time.”

If you like working with people, consider volunteering with the Senior Center of Boulder City, with Lend-A-Hand, Emergency Aid of Boulder City or with The Homestead at Boulder City, an assisted-living organization run by Volunteers of America. Why not see if the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce can use your organizational services or, for those wanting a more hands-on opportunity, how about volunteering at the Nevada Southern Railway?

You can even volunteer with the city. Volunteers can identify cost-effective ways to improve the quality of city services and operations, help reduce backlogs that will lead to improved efficiency and help improve communications with other citizens. Those interested should check out http://www.bcnv.org/220/Volunteer-Services.

A few years ago I learned an interesting Hawaiian word: kuleana. Basically, the word means “being of service to your community.” It also means that you have the ability to sometimes say “No.” You do not have to be everything to everybody and you do not have to accept every community activity that is offered.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities around to satisfy the need to help.

“Every day, volunteers of all ages are giving their time and talents to solve problems and make our nation stronger. Whether tutoring students or connecting veterans or responding to natural disasters, Americans are doing extraordinary things to improve lives and strengthen themselves by learning new skills, increasing job prospects and even improving their health,” wrote Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, about a December 2015 report on volunteering in America.

Angela Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at catalyst78@cox.net

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