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At the suggestion of a reader, It was suggested I consider writing an article concerning Volunteerism. As I I accepted the challenge with great anticipation. I am reminded that I too am a volunteer, and have been now for more than 7 years, and I must admit I never thought in a million years I would have accomplished the goals that I have, nor entertain any thoughts of the amount of responsibility I now have.

The feelings of accomplishment are incredible. I chose to join a volunteer organization because I wanted to help others as others before me. At some point in everyone’s life we are reliant on someone else for an emergency of some type. Becoming a volunteer allows you the opportunity to not only return the favor but also get a little something in return. It’s a nice way of saying thank – you.

During his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush called on all Americans to give at least two years of their lives -- the equivalent of 4,000 hours -- of service to their neighborhoods, communities and the Nation. I encourage everyone who is reading this article to meet that challenge. This is a small price to pay for the rewards you will receive in return.

Many people volunteer for a variety of different reasons, I have always felt the need to help others, and will probably continue, to my dying days, but that’s just me. How about you? What are some reasons why you want to volunteer? But you should also look into what’s in it for you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

By tradition volunteering is a type of charity, or selflessness. Though volunteering involves serving others, look at it as giving back. The people you help today may very well be the ones who help you tomorrow or another day by their volunteer efforts.

When you volunteer you may very well be helping yourself at the same time. Not only will you be learning something new, the satisfaction of accomplishing something new is a great feeling.

Many people volunteer for different reason. I was motivated for a sense of accomplishment, for allowing myself to do something new and different. To get to know my community, and gain new skills in leadership. I also felt it was my civic duty to aid my community where I was unable to serve in the military. I wanted to learn something new. I took a boat into uncharted waters, and now I’m the Captain.

Take the time to sit down and write your thoughts on how you can help your community by volunteering. What can you give? And remember, it does not have to be money or even skills you already know. The ability to want to learn a new skill or to just help where you can will do.

Once you're a volunteer, you will continue to serve as long as you feel that you’re accomplishing something and you feel appreciated, and that you are making a difference. It will also help if you like the people you are working with. You must also remember not to get discouraged or try too hard, you’ll burn out.

Your commitment to your job as a volunteer will grow stronger as you witness the benefit of not only what you have learned but also in what you’ve given to others.

Consider issues that concern you, it’s important you think about this before you join an organization and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Everybody’s will be different.

The organization you volunteer for, make sure you are happy with what they are doing and satisfied with the way they operate. Do they deserve your support? If not, are you willing to start your own organization? Answering these questions will aid you in who you volunteer with.

Are you looking for a new challenge? Most volunteers are. But you need to decide if you would like to do something different or use your current skills. Some volunteer jobs may require you Participate in a job you are already acquainted with before tackling something new to see if you like working within their organization.

As a volunteer, you have a choice of many activities. Is there something you wish you had the opportunity to learn? Some organizations will gladly assign you to something as a beginner because they know that you are willing to learn something new. This is one way that volunteering develops your skills and is fun. Put yourself to the test. Once you have you will look at the world from a whole new perspective.

It's also OK to avoid anything you feel you do not want to do as a volunteer. You want to be happy with you will be doing. The happier you are, the better you will be as a volunteer. So feel free to discuss each task you will be performing.

Some volunteer tasks require much time. But others can be completed in Short order. Be honest and commit only what time you can give. If you can give more at a later time great. The organization you are with will be thankful for that. Over committing form the start could also cause burn out and we do not want that.

When you approach an organization for volunteer opportunities many things may happen. It all depends with whom you are applying. Some groups or organizations may put you to work right away. Others may have an application process, an interview process, or a short period of classroom time designed to see where you would best benefit them within their organization. Some organizations may ask for a resume, this is so they may get to know your background a little and check references.

How you find an organization that is looking for volunteers is just like looking for a job. You need to make the effort. Look in your newspaper and local phonebook. If you find that nobody has anything you would like to offer or anything you would like to do, start your own cause. Many have accomplished this and with great success. All you need is the initiative to make it happen.

Once you have found what you are looking for get as much information as possible. Learn as much as you can about the organization by acquiring reading material and speak with others within the organization. Be willing to try something different, as not every opportunity will be up your alley and there will be others that will be.

If you are really interested in a particular organization, sell yourself. Let them know what you have done to date. Other volunteering activities, do you speak any other languages, will you do just about anything. The more you are willing to do the more appealing you will look.

Many people volunteer to fulfill a dream. My dad did, and traveled halfway across the globe. Not Only did he have the time of his life. He found a new friend for life. There are many volunteer opportunities available, theatre – animal care – Firefighter and Ambulance Attendant. Just to name a few.

As an example if you join a Volunteer Fire Department, this does not mean you must fight fires. There are so many other jobs available. You can drive a Truck, you can pump water if you like. Fill air bottles for the firefighters if needed. Nourish firefighters back to physical condition to keep fighting a fire. And the list goes on. There are so many ways to serve. Just ask. What is your wish for a dream to come true?

Some people like to look for new job opportunities. Volunteering is one way to do it. You can try out what you think you may like to do. See if it’s for you and if it is great, you have a new career and if not you didn’t loose any ground, or your current employment.

Volunteering will help you build self-confidence, self-esteem, build new skills and gain a whole new respect for the world in which you live.

Please take into consideration when you first volunteer, you should do something you can already do. Once you have become acclimated within the organization and are comfortable with what you can do, you may then feel like moving on to something a little more challenging.

Never try and do more than you can. Doing so will cause others to question your ability’s. Go slow and win the trust of your colleagues. Doing so will keep you involved longer with the organization. Never be afraid to admit you think something is beyond your ability’s.

Never expect to get your own way. Good for you if you do. But try and remember that volunteering is a two-way street. Those who are there, to help, and those who are in need of help. Your first priority will always be, those who need your help. The way you behave sets an example and that should always be in a professional manner.

If you say you will do something, do it. Keeping your word. People will be relying on you to provide what you say you will. A relationship based on trust is and will always be key to your success as a volunteer.

Manage your time wisely. You can only be in one place at a time. Try to allow your efforts to match your goals.

Before you involve yourself too heavily in a volunteer capacity, make sure your family has a complete and full understanding of what may be required of you or requested of you. Some volunteer organizations have you working on weekends and even require you travel from time to time. Never sacrifice family or your employment for your volunteer activities.

Anonymity is very important when volunteering. You may at times need to know information about the person you are helping and what information you have will be private between you and that particular person or family. You will be trusted by the organization to respect that. Not to mention it is a respect of rights towards the people you are helping. By keeping this information private, you also create a great feeling of trust within the organization with whom you have been working. It is very important you also understand that by volunteering you are respecting all human rights of those you are helping and you respect their beliefs.

Remember you are volunteering because you want to. Never take anything in return for your efforts. You are helping people through your thoughtfulness and want to help others.

Finally always be kind and gentle no matter what. Keep an open mind because you may just learn from those whom you are serving. Volunteering is a wonderful way to build self – confidence and grow in many other ways. Consider volunteering soon. You may never know when the shoes will be on the other foot.

Have the volunteer bug yet? Here is a small list of organizations that are always in need of volunteers.
The American Red Cross – Local Volunteer Fire Department – Children’s Programs – Schools – The Salvation Army. There are many, you just need to decide.

Rob Gaiser is a member of The Southwest Harbor Fire Department and is their Public Information Officer.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. You may send them too

If you would like to know how volunteering has changed my life. You may write to

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