As Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” One way to practice this is through volunteer work, whether it be as small as picking up trash or as extensive as organizing a natural disaster relief event after a crisis. Volunteering and helping comes in all shapes and sizes. Helping others in need when you are able to do so helps the world continue to move forward.
I volunteered to help others and the environment growing up, but it never really occurred to me the difference it made for others until a few years ago. I would always hear the golden rule from my parents growing up; treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s something I always applied to my daily life, but sometimes, you just have to go above and beyond that concept.
About 5 years ago, the company I worked for decided to create a volunteer day for any employee who wanted to sign up. We all went to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to create meal kits for families needing help. That day changed my world. Not only did I have a great time with my co-workers, but it really opened my eyes to how a small gesture can make the biggest difference. I went back to volunteer at the food bank a couple times a month as the feeling was just amazing knowing what I was doing.
Soon thereafter, I moved to Ventura county and decided to apply to be a big sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization. For anyone who doesn’t know, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a program designed to “create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth” for children ranging ages 5 to young adulthood. I applied and scheduled an appointment to get matched with a little sister, but as luck would have it, Covid-19 hit and they were not scheduling meetups during the pandemic. I was pretty devastated with that result. In lieu of that, I was also laid off from my job as the pandemic hit.
With the Big Sister program falling through and going semi-insane from the lockdown, I knew I needed to do something. My mom had been volunteering at Project Understanding for 3 years so I reached out to see what I could do to help. Project Understanding is a non-profit organization that provides resources for people and families that aren’t as fortunate. They offer weekly groceries for singles and families whose budget cannot support their purchases, as well as housing and tutoring at no cost. Based on the Census Bureau data survey, 1 in 8 Americans have recently reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat in the past week, hitting nearly 26 million American adults since the pandemic and this number rose significantly since the start of the pandemic.
Jann Huling, the Pantry Manager at Project Understanding, stated that since the pandemic had started, she absolutely saw an increase in the number of people registered for receiving food from the pantry. Project Understanding runs solely on people’s donations of their time and money. I was able to volunteer in the food pantry providing meals, toiletries, pet food, and even plants to those who come in for help. One of the great things about it is that there are no questions asked. Anyone who signs up will get help without hesitation. My time volunteering there was nothing short of remarkable. Not only were the other volunteers some of the most wonderful people, I really grew to love the clients of the pantry. They are easily some of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
I am now a registered volunteer for Ventura Land Trust that “protects Ventura’s land, water, wildlife, & scenic views.” This opportunity has been great because I’m able to volunteer on the weekends doing things outside like planting trees, removing trash and invasive plants, and restoring native habitats. It’s a win-win.
If you are thinking about wanting to volunteer or help, but don’t know what to do, a great resource is https://www.volunteermatch.org/ to find volunteer opportunities near you. Also, a quick Google search for local volunteer opportunities will also do the trick. Giving back to the community and the environment has been easily one of the most rewarding feelings and I encourage others to do the same.
Written by Hannah Langley