‘Selfless Service’– An Army Value, but also a very good civilian value.
In the military, regardless of branch, you were always told to never volunteer. Sometimes, you might not had a choice and were “voluntold”. Selfless service to your community is volunteering, but in a good way: you are in control and you select the organization and your level of commitment.
During the 1990’s, I served as a local youth sports coach [soccer, baseball and basketball] and a member of the Lions Clubs International. A common theme I noted while I volunteered was a shortage of volunteers to coach or serve as Lions Club members.
Currently, I volunteer as an Assistant Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America. I was a Boy Scout, am an Eagle Scout and like camping and other outdoor activities; the decision was easy. Volunteering is not punishment; it is a personal decision to help others, so selecting an organization that meets your needs is equally important as serving the organization itself.
As a potential volunteer you need to assess your interests and your skill sets. Then compare to the volunteer organization’s mission and requirements. Is there a match?
Knowing I am a hack sportsman but a professional leader; I volunteered as a coach, my focus was not developing the next sports ‘star’ as much as developing a sense of team work, never quit attitude and always do your best. My teams did win several town league championships due to the kids trying their best, never quitting and playing as a team.
I separated Selfless Service into three categories: Military Service Connected, Community Service and Youth Service. Each category has different specific goals, and the same general goals of helping others and giving back. Here are some suggestions of organizations always needing more volunteers.
Military Service Connected
Disabled American Veterans- DAV: https://www.dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/volunteer-locally-help-the-va/
American Legion: http://www.legion.org/members
Both organizations need ‘participating members’ in order to stay relevant and help fellow veterans.
Lions Clubs International: http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/who-we-are/index.php
Comment and Commitment: The Lions Clubs motto is “We Serve” and their specialty is eye sight issues. Founded after World War I; the goal to help blinded veterans [gas warfare was not pretty]. The Lions Clubs raise money for scholarships, sponsor youth sports teams and supports eye research. My experience was very good– the members welcoming and supportive. The commitment is two monthly meetings plus several annual fund raising activities.
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/support/volunteer
Located in most large towns and cities, the American Red Cross collects blood, provides disaster relief and first aid training.
Local Food Pantries: Google your area to find local food pantries.
Comment: Perfect volunteer organization for former supply and food service personnel. That food is not going to bag itself up or take its own inventory.
Boy Scouts of America: http://www.scouting.org/
Girl Scouts of America: http://www.girlscouts.org/
Comment and Commitment: I admit a strong personal bias towards the Boy Scouts. My Boy Scout Troop meets weekly and has one weekend event monthly. You do not have to participate in every weekend event, attending the weekly meetings should be a priority. No matter how many Boy Scouts in a Troop, there seems to be a shortage of drivers and adults for weekend events. Camping and wilderness survival skills seem to be lost on today’s youth, prior military experience and leadership/organizational skills are welcomed.
Big Brother/Big Sister: http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962351/k.42EB/We_are_here_to_start_something.htm
Comment: Camping and hiking are off the table, but you still want to help. Big Brother and Big Sister are youth mentorship organizations. Mentors are welcome.
Youth Sports: Nearly every town has local youth sports teams always needing coaches and assistants. Based on my experience, you do not need to be a former Division I athlete; just understand the sport’s basics and provide leadership. Dealing with parents is tricky- diplomacy, the best option. Be fair with the players- equal play time and have some expectation management– you are not going to win every game. I was happy knowing every player did their best, even if it was only C+. At the town league level, not everyone is a superstar, despite what their parents think.
Keys to success:
Start slow and listen to the more experienced leaders and members. Starting as an assistant is not a bad way to begin.
Know your limits– time and effort. Avoid over committing yourself resulting in stress and frustration.
Select an organization that you truly believe in.
Have fun. You can have fun while volunteering. I enjoyed my time with the other adults; remember volunteering is not punishment.