At Chicago Cares, we are fortunate to have a lot of amazing and very dedicated volunteers who understand the importance of service and realize all rewards associated with it.  Occasionally, however, we hear questions from outsiders who don’t fully grasp the purpose of or privileges involved with volunteering.  We would like to highlight some of the many reasons you should volunteer, and you may be surprised by some of the benefits!

Make a Difference
It’s a given that volunteering provides an opportunity to help others and to make an impact on the world.  You can contribute to a cause that you care about, share your passion with others, and give back to your community.  By committing a bit of your time, you can support families, improve schools, beautify your neighborhood, changes the lives of children and youth.  But your contribution doesn’t stop with each hour you give.  According to the Independent Sector, a volunteer’s time is estimated to be worth an average of $20.85 per hour!  That means that by volunteering, you are enabling monetary resources to be stretched further and spent on other initiatives and local improvements.
Make Friends and Social Connections
Facebook, Twitter, and social media are great, but human interaction is even better!  Get out in your community, meet new people, and make new friends.  If you have recently moved, volunteering is a great way to check out your new city or neighborhood and start making connections!  Volunteering is also a great way to build professional contacts and network with a variety of people.  Love connections have also been known to happen at service projects from time to time – but we make no guarantees!
Help Your Career and Build Your Resume
Volunteering can help you learn new skills to add to your resume, and it looks great to employers and schools.  It’s also a great way to develop communication, teamwork, and leadership skills!  If you are considering a career change, volunteering your time at a local agency or non-profit can help you explore new possibilities.  If you are unemployed, volunteering can fill employment gaps on your resume and allow you make important networking connections!  You can stay sharp and use your skills in a productive way that also benefits others. 

Better Yourself

If you feel like you need a change, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons.  If you crunch numbers all day, get involved with artistic or creative projects.  Or if you don’t interact much with children or seniors, try it out!  Many people find they feel better about themselves, and discover new passions or skills when they volunteer.  It can also provide a sense of belonging and purpose to those who are going through life transitions.  AARP recently reported that chronic loneliness is becoming an increasing problem among those age 45 and older; yet, they also found that people who volunteered were less likely to report being lonely that those who did not. 
Keep Learning
By working with non-profit organizations and public schools or agencies, you can learn a lot about local government and municipal operations. Through educational programs with children or adults, you could freshen up your math skills, brush up on your Spanish, or make a connection between history and current events.  Volunteers may also find hidden talents or learn something new about themselves in the process!
It’s Good for Your Health
In a survey released by UnitedHealthcare, volunteers reported reduced stress levels and said that volunteering made them feel healthier; additionally, it suggests that volunteers even have healthier BMIs than people who do not volunteer.  This survey also shows that people who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives and optimistic than non-volunteers.  And according to a report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, several studies have shown that volunteers have lower mortality rates, better health, and lower levels of depression.

If That Isn’t Enough…
In case you still are not convinced, Chicago Cares Service Events Coordinator, Megan Germain, explains her motivation for volunteering:

“I would not consider myself a very religious person, rather more spiritual, but Luke 12:48 says, “To whom much is given is much required.”  I certainly do not have oodles of time and money to give away; however, I still have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a warm, safe house, a loving family, and nutritious food at every meal.  

Money may not be something I can easily part with, but I can sacrifice an extra hour or two a week that I would ordinarily spend in front of the television or on Facebook.  My time is better used helping others to achieve safe, warm housing or a good meal.  Much has been given to me in life, via pure luck, hard work, or other’s generosity.  It is merely my civic duty to pay that forward.  Imagine if everyone were to give of their time as it equates with the blessings in their lives – what would the world be like?”

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