Volunteering Through the Years

 

Ever wonder how to find time and fit service to others into your busy schedule? It can be difficult with all our responsibilities to balance, but I want to share my volunteerism journey with you, from childhood to present day. I hope to encourage you to seek out opportunities to serve your community, in whatever form best suits your stage of life.

 

I Was Persuaded    

 

I was raised to believe that service to others is my civic responsibility.

 

Each summer, during my middle and high school years, I volunteered for various community and church events. Maybe I should say that I was nudged to volunteer. Basically, if my mom knew someone who had a need, she signed me and my siblings up to help.

 

Some of the community service events that I participated in included: helping disabled children play baseball, teaching vacation bible school, reading and recording books on tape for learning disabled students and delivering meals to the poor.

 

Somehow, she even convinced me to be the only teenager on my school district’ committee for a drug free community! 

 

I Got Hooked

 

As you can imagine, like most teenagers, I wasn’t initially thrilled that my mom volunteered me. With time however, I came to really enjoy it and I sought more opportunities to serve.  

 

I truly believe that the experiences I had while volunteering as an adolescent played a significant role in the development of my self-esteem and character. They also shaped my outlook on life. I believed that in some small way I could make a difference in the world. During my college years, I continued to volunteer by serving as a crisis counselor at a local pregnancy center. Since I was a psychology major, I thought the opportunity would give me real world experience. It did exactly that.

 

Encouraging and supporting women of all ages through a major life transition was also a very rewarding experience. 

 

As I began my career as a school counselor in inner city schools, I carried my passion to make my mark by helping others. My first contracted position was in a large high school in Philadelphia. I had nearly 900 teenagers on my caseload and I was still quite young myself. While I didn’t stay in that position long, I constantly implemented programs to try to help those who needed it most.

 

I moved on to work for suburban districts, where I organized volunteer opportunities for my students. In my free time, I also found ways to fill my time with service to others. I tutored children in homeless shelters, and assisted the elderly.

 

I Couldn’t Fit It In

 

When I settled down and had children, I virtually stopped volunteering in any regular manner.

 

Right before the birth of my first born, my husband and I were trained to assist in horseback riding lessons for handicapped children. Once we realized that the commitment would limit our quality time as a family, we decided that it was not the right fit. We were both disappointed that it did not work out… but it was just not the right timing.

 

For the first few years after having children, my husband and I worked opposite schedules. This was optimal for childcare, but terrible for allowing time for family and service. 

 

I Missed It 

 

Volunteerism has always been such a significant part of my life. But it was so hard to find something that would fit into my schedule…until recently.

 

This past year, I shifted from working full to part-time. The extra time allowed me the opportunity to arrange and take part in several volunteer opportunities. My challenge was finding events that I could bring my kids to or involve them in some way. I began by doing informal “Kindness missions” with them in our community. We purchased toys from a local thrift store and donated them to the playground and made cookies for our law enforcement officers. Then we had a lemonade stand to raise money for a new roof for our church. Last fall, I planned an event at a local farm to pick apples for a food pantry. We had a decent turn out, and it was something that even toddlers participated in.

 

I Found My Passion to Serve Again

 

I found that it wasn’t impossible to serve. I just had to have an open mind about what that looked like at this stage of life. It seemed that planning and participating in one time volunteer events was working better for my family’s schedule more than a regularly scheduled commitment.

 

With my new schedule, I was also able to pursue an opportunity that had been on my list for a while. Over the past few months, I completed a certification to become a disaster response crisis counselor. The certification allows me to use my skills to support in any disasters or traumas that occur in my county. The great thing about it is, I can say no if I am not free or don’t have childcare.    

 

I Hope To…

 

As my children grow, I plan to continue to arrange for us to participate in volunteer events as a family. As they leave the nest, I am sure new doors will open for my husband and I to serve in a more regular capacity. I hope to participate in service trips abroad.

 

But for now, I am happy to find a way, to participate in service to my community, in a way that works for us!

 

Christine

Christine Sullivan is a school counselor, blogger, teachers-pay-teachers author and a Juice Plus+ sales representative. Her mission is to nurture young hearts and grow a kinder world by providing resources to support parents and educators. She is also passionate about the connection between diet and mental health. Follow her on her website www.teachkidsemapthy.com on Instagram (teachkidsempathy) and on Facebook. Christine lives in New Jersey with her two young boys, her husband and her dog Bingo.