Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors
“Habitat is starting up again,” Michael said with a smile. The thought of hammering nails doesn’t thrill me, but this long-time Habitat for Humanity volunteer was eager to resume his three-times-a-week “job”.
Michael knows the joy that accompanies donating time and talents. Volunteering propels many older adults to get up every morning. While helping others, volunteers profit from the “helper’s high” and gain other physical and mental benefits. However, the bonus for older adults is that volunteering boosts our sense of meaning. Purpose-creating behaviors become increasingly important as we age.
That’s probably why my friend Sharon told me, “The hardest part of the pandemic has been that I can’t be at the hospital.” A long-time volunteer, she recently earned recognition for donating 1,000 hours to the local medical center.
Although traditional, in-person volunteering has plummeted, non-profits have reinvented ways to serve during the pandemic. Volunteers work within restrictions, while experiencing the giving that helps others and creates happiness within.
If you seek to serve, check the website of a ministry that matters to you. Many organizations offer new and alternative opportunities.
- Although church potlucks have been suspended, you might work with grab-and-go meals and meal deliveries that have filled some gaps.
- In virtual run-walk events, individuals run solo then submit results. This reconfigured fundraising still allows volunteers to build community and reach shared goals.
- In our congregation, a cadre of talented seamstresses has made hundreds of face masks. A basket of the free, hand-made masks, some with Christian messages, sits outside the church entrance.
- Organized programs reach out to military personnel and first responders, but a formal plan isn’t needed to drop a note or send a card to family or friends.
- Carrying a garbage bag while picking up trash in the neighborhood is a fun way to show that being socially distanced doesn’t mean being socially disconnected.
Pandemic volunteering comes in various shapes and sizes, but still creates happy hearts.