By: Sharon Gibson Ellis, Executive Director of United Way of Greater Williamsburg
Intuitively many of us know that giving makes us feel better! Volunteering, making a financial contribution, or donating goods or services is satisfying and there is research and convincing evidence that it has real physical and mental health benefits as well.
We all want to feel as though we have something to offer our community, society, our country or even the world. I know personally I feel great satisfaction when I can afford to make a financial contribution or give clothing, household goods or furniture to someone who needs it, or to an organization that will make sure it gets to someone in need. Like many, I can’t always afford to make a financial contribution or I don’t have any clothing or household goods to donate BUT, I can always give my time.
Research studies show that most people do hold the belief that helping others is a good way to gain personal fulfillment. However, I am not sure that anyone has studied the number of good night’s sleep I have had because I volunteered all day at something I am passionate about; the continued warm feelings I get when someone who has benefitted from my volunteer deeds smiles at me; the dog kisses I get from my endless days helping at the rescue; the memories I will have forever of the many people and animals I have crossed paths with as a result of giving a few hours here and there; and finally I am sure that no one has studied how many times volunteering has forced me not to be self-centered but rather to focus on the good around me.
I am happy that people have taken the time to research and study the effects of volunteering because the more evidence that is presented, I believe, the more people who have not felt the thrill of volunteering may give it a try. Volunteering is a great way to gain human contact and not feel isolated, to be part of a network or group you might be interested in, cultivate job prospects, clear your mind of the troubles and issues of the day, and to make a significant gift to your community….your time!
Sharon Gibson Ellis has been the Executive Director of United Way of Greater Williamsburg for the last 19 months. She has worked for United Way for the last 37 years starting in Oregon and moving across country through Iowa serving as the CEO of the United Way of Muscatine for five years. Sharon and her husband are avid animal rescue volunteers and care for approximately 40 rescued animals on their own property in Mathews.