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The Three H’s of 2015

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The Three H’s of 2015

By Anne Bartlett

As a volunteer coordinator, I had the pleasure of seeing the overflowing generosity of my community around the holidays. Walking into my office every morning I had to climb over piles of Secret Santa presents just to get through the lobby. Experiencing this spirit of giving can be enough to bring chills to my spine and tears to my eyes.

I began to wonder…. what if this overwhelming altruism lasted all year long? Everyone has their own lists of resolutions, but many of our resolutions revolve around being happy and staying healthy. I’d like to add one more “H” to that list: being helpful. While the giving spirit diminishes with the holiday season, the need for generosity continues throughout the year. I advocate our community extends its “holiday spirit” of giving back to include the rest of the year through volunteering long-term in our community.

What would Sonoma County be like if the community found ways to give their time, talents and kindness all year long with the same intensity as they do during the holidays? Believe it or not, being helpful can lead to a happier and healthier life, and could fit right in with our other resolutions.

Researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and happiness and found the more people volunteered, the happier they were. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 12 percent for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy—a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000, say the researchers.

Given this statistic, we should all consider making volunteerism part of our regular routine, not just a once-a-year tradition around the holidays, but as a New Year’s resolution for our health and happiness.

I would encourage all who read this, to invest in our community through committing to a long-term volunteer opportunity.  At the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County we have a wide variety of volunteering opportunities. For example: if you like reading, how about volunteering with the Volunteer Center’s Literacy Connection? Last year, over 700 volunteers served in 50 schools in various capacities, and there is still a need for volunteers. Maybe you’re a music lover and want to explore volunteering with the Sonoma County Philharmonic. This all-volunteer orchestra is a cultural gem that needs ushers and ticket-takers for every performance. If you are the type of person that enjoys meeting new people and exploring our beautiful county, another need in our community is drivers with Volunteer Wheels.  This program takes our most vulnerable neighbors to critical appointments.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a direct impact on someone else's quality of life. 

With long-term volunteer opportunities, you’re able to experience a change over time that you couldn't otherwise. I personally volunteered in Schools of Hope last year, and the highlight of my experience was seeing the joy spread across my student’s face while reading week after week. As a volunteer coordinator I hear countless stories about the bond created between a child and his or her tutor and am continually amazed at the impact one person can have.

I encourage everyone in Sonoma County to take this opportunity to care for the long-term needs in our community. Volunteer to discover your own path to health and happiness and make a difference in someone else's life. For information on volunteering visit our website www.volunteernow.org, or call in at (7070) 573-3399 and dial 0 to set up an appointment to meet with one of our volunteer interviewers.