Volunteering – it does a body (and soul) good

By Joanne Peterson | Apr 24, 2014

I don’t know how many people volunteer at the Edmonds Food Bank, located at Edmonds United Methodist Church on Caspers Street.  There are so many volunteers there that possibly nobody else has an accurate count either!

I do know that seven days a week, members of the Food Bank team are picking up contributions from local businesses and working cooperatively with Northwest Harvest.

Any day of the week, I think you’ll find dedicated volunteers loading, unloading, stacking, sorting, weighing, counting, packaging, boxing, labeling and organizing food products in preparation for distribution to families in need.

Every Tuesday morning hundreds of people arrive at the Edmonds Food Bank, where volunteers greet them warmly, assist them with grace and good humor, and see to it that by the time they leave, they have food for their hungry families. And then the entire process starts all over.

I’ve written about the food bank many times. Today, though, I’m thinking of it from a different angle. I’m thinking about the mental, emotional and physical benefits of volunteering.

I use the example of the local food bank because that’s a volunteer operation I know about. I volunteer very few hours a week there, but it’s enough time that I feel a part of the operation.

Other people, though, have worked at our food bank many hours a week for 10 or 20 years, prompted by their conviction to do something to help others. I am in awe of those selfless individuals. I know there are hundreds of others in and around Edmonds who are equally dedicated and active in volunteering in other areas.

I’m convinced that volunteering is a healthy pursuit that can help people toward happier, more fulfilling lives.  I know some people – they happen to be retired, which may or may not be significant – who speak now and then of volunteering “somewhere, someday” but who haven’t yet done so. Is it coincidental that some of those people don’t have a lot of social connection, don’t have many people depending on them or acting glad to see them?

People who volunteer for organizations, events or institutions that strike a chord, tug at their hearts and compel them to pitch in and help are likely to fill an important space in their own lives, while providing valuable assistance to others.

Volunteers are needed in schools, hospitals, libraries, pet rescue agencies, charities, ministries, service organizations and emergency situations. If you volunteer, you are apt to feel better about yourself, gaining energy and enthusiasm while helping someone else.

And here’s the fun part – volunteers sometimes play together, too.  Last week, the Edmonds Food Bank celebrated a Volunteer Appreciation night, a Western theme, with good food, live music, prizes, singing, a lot of laughter, even line dancing – which I could not resist attempting. It was a great evening.

So if you aren’t currently volunteering, I’m highly recommending it. Somewhere nearby there are caring individuals working together to accomplish good. They need more help and will welcome you to their team.

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