volunteer n. A person who performs or offers to perform a service voluntarily.
volunteering v.intr. 1. To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will. 2. To do charitable or helpful work without pay.
So why do people do helpful things without pay (and without being forced to do so)? Throughout my life, the reasons for volunteering have varied, depending on the circumstance. Sometimes I volunteered because my friends were all doing it. Sometimes I was “volunteered” (thus an element of the “free will” was removed). I’ve been at stages in my life when I was lonely and volunteering filled a social gap. Now, volunteering seems to revolve around the needs of the organizations my kids belong to. It’s only now that I’m older that I sometimes volunteer because it’s the right thing to do (i.e. I really don’t want to do “X” but it’s the right thing to do, so I do it.). I’m certain there are an infinite number of reasons why people volunteer and I’m certainly not going to judge the goodness/badness of any of them. I’m also certain though, that regardless of why people volunteer, when they are done with a volunteer assignment, they feel good and have no regrets about helping out. If you have never volunteered, by all means, get out there and do it!
Here are some great volunteer activities that have presented themselves to me.
1. Volunteer Ski Patroller. In the younger, no-kid stage of my life, I spent two winters volunteering as a ski patroller at Sol Vista located just south of Granby, Colorado. It’s a small, family-oriented ski resort. They have a small number of paid, professional ski patrollers that work for money during the week. The resort relies 100% on its volunteer (unpaid) ski patrollers on the weekends. Volunteer patrolling is a huge commitment that takes, for starters, four months of classes to obtain outdoor first aid training and certification. Then, every year you have to re-up your certification by participating in additional off-the-mountain and on-the-mountain first aid mountain training. The amount of patrol duty you pull every year depends on how many active volunteer patrollers they have. Typically, 12-15 weekend days are expected of its volunteers. The benefits of volunteering to patrol for this group are numerous. There are many benefits beyond the obvious ones of free-skiing for yourself and family, first tracks every morning while you open the mountain, last tracks as you close the mountain, free snowmobiling around the mountain for certain rescue cases…You will make strong friendships, your confidence will grow as you get thrown into many interesting rescue situations, you’ll get an insight in how a ski mountain operates that you’d never get just by paying to play at a resort, your first aid skills will soar… While I did mention that I did this volunteer activity when I was younger/kidless, I was in the minority. Most of the volunteers were in their 40’s and 50’s (we even had some 60’s in there along with the occasional 70-something that came back to ski a day with the old crew). It always seemed to me that they got the most out of the experience; what a great way to provide a ski experience for their families. They even have a junior patrol for the kids of patrol members.
Unfortunately, I have been away from the patrol for several years due to having too many other commitments. But I have kept in contact with members from the patrol, and I know the volunteer organization is still alive and well. Here’s an old link that provides some contact information about volunteering. If that link does not provide any results, contact the SolVista Ski Resort and they will turn you in the right direction.
2. Volunteer at Your Kid’s School. This one seems quite obvious but I have found it’s not obvious to all parents; it is typically the same handful of parents that volunteer to help out throughout the year. I was always in awe of my kids’ preschool teachers; the kids really respected and adored them, they got so much done every morning, and they still had time to chat to the parents. They work so hard. Sometimes, they came right out and asked for parent volunteers; when this happens to you, jump out and help! Sometimes you can tell they are struggling a bit; jump out and help when you notice this! Even if it’s just picking up a floor full of blocks amidst a chaotic room full of four year olds and parents. It is easier for me to volunteer at school now because I stay home full time. When I did work though, I’d take one vacation day every year and then use bits of that day throughout the year to account for the hour here and the hour there that I helped out at my kid’s school. From experience, volunteering at your kid’s school will make your kid happier, you happier, and place your kid in better standing with your teacher and school.