River Country Journal
Celebrating and Nurturing Life in Southwest Michigan's River Country

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June 26, 2013

The Volunteer Connection by Margaret Shultz

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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Margaret Shultz, Volunteer Services Specialist

I spent most of my career managing volunteers and programs involving volunteers.  One of the things that I always said was that people come to volunteering for many different reasons.  They might be exploring career opportunities, looking for a place to meet new friends or learn new skills, or even searching for a way to live their faith.  It was important to me to understand what their motivation was because then I had a better opportunity to find an assignment that met both the volunteer’s needs and those of the program.  This past week the Corporation for National and Community Service released a new report that documents another reason for volunteering – it can increase the chances of you finding a job!

This study used ten years of data and analyzed a sample of more than 70,000 people who were looking for work.  They found that people who volunteered while they were looking for work were 27% more likely to find work.  Even more interesting, they discovered that the advantage was greatest for those who didn’t have a high school diploma and those who live in rural areas.  Volunteering allows an individual with limited skills an opportunity to make new social connections as well as build new skills and experiences.  The study found that the connection between volunteering and increased likelihood of employment held for all volunteers regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.

Summer is just getting started but in just a couple weeks the stores will be starting their “back to school” sales.  Every year Three Rivers has a big back to school event that helps about 650 kids with school supplies.  They are currently collecting donations and they could use your help.  The program serves children from all grade levels, from kindergarten through high school.  They need all the normal school supplies including pens and pencils, notebook paper, crayons and markers, rulers, glue sticks, folders and, of course, backpacks.  This year the Commission on Aging has offered to collect and store the donations so that’s where you can take any supplies that you would like to give.  The Commission on Aging is in the back half of the Three Rivers Library building.  They are open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.  If you have any questions about the back to school event, you can contact Diane Haley-Clay at 269-506-8417.

There is an emergency food pantry in almost every community in St. Joseph County.  Families with low incomes have it especially hard in the summertime because their children aren’t getting some of their meals at school.  The summer food programs help with that need but not everyone can get to a site where the lunch is being served.  The food pantries depend on donations from the community to meet the need.  Please remember your needy neighbors when you shop or when you have extra produce in your garden.  If you don’t know where your town’s food pantry is located, call 2-1-1 – it’s a free call from everywhere.

Other programs in St. Joseph County that are looking for volunteers and would like to be included in this weekly column are encouraged to register with United Way.  Contact Margaret Shultz, Volunteer Services Specialist, at 269-467-9099 or at volunteer.sjcuw@gmail.com.


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