Community

Giving your time and talents - it's the season

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It’s the season of giving, and for many people, the best way to give back is through volunteering. For those looking to give back, plenty of volunteer opportunities are available. So how do you go about finding the right one for you this season? “A good starting point is to understand why you want to volunteer or what is motivating you,” says Sue Driscoll, senior manager of volunteer engagement at United Way of East Central Iowa. For almost 20 years, she has connected volunteers with meaningful opportunities in the area. “Whether you’re interested in socializing, developing or utilizing your skills or being a change agent for causes you care about, have an idea of what you hope to get out of the experience.”

Driscoll usually sees a spike in people volunteering this time of year. “I believe the spirit and joy of the holidays fuels people’s desire to give back, and they are interested in sharing with those in need,” she says. “It is a time of giving, and many want to reach beyond their immediate family and circle of friends to bring joy to others.”

It’s important to consider how much time you have to offer. “Are you interested in a one-time project? Could you commit time more frequently, or do you need something more flexible? Once you have answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for,” she says.

If you’re seeking a volunteer opportunity of yourself or your family or coworkers, Driscoll says visiting the United Way website is a great first step. “All you have to do is visit uweci.org and click on ‘Volunteer Now.’ The site highlights over 100 nonprofits that list volunteer opportunities,” she says. “You can learn about the different agencies, what services they provide and the population they help.” Plenty of one-day opportunities are featured on the website, including fundraising, cleanup projects or simply helping create awareness. Long-term volunteering options also are available for people looking for a larger commitment.

“Opportunities that are ongoing might include reading to a child weekly as part of a literacy or mentoring program, driving seniors to non-emergency medical appointments, delivering meals or providing administrative support,” Driscoll says. One fun way to get involved, she says, is to do something together with your family over the holidays. A group volunteer project allows you to spend time together while making a positive impact on the community.

This could include hosting a food or toy drive as part of your celebration, delivering meals to seniors, adopting a family during the holidays, participating in a neighborhood cleanup or even visiting a nursing home.

Driscoll also sees many employers or coworkers come together to get involved and give back. “Many of the opportunities are available for groups or teams to sign up,” she says. “Consider the skills of the group and how you can leverage them to help a nonprofit deliver its mission. It could be helping generate new programs, solving a problem or providing accounting or

budgeting services.”

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With plenty of options available for people of all ages, the holidays are a great time to roll up your sleeves and get involved. And though the season of giving draws to a close in January, volunteer opportunities are never-ending.“There are hundreds of nonprofits in our community, and many of them need volunteers all year round,” Driscoll says.

For more information on how you can give back, visit uweci.org.

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