A Fresh Look at Volunteering

Last week, my office held its holiday/service event, something we've been doing for several years. Two years ago, we sorted cans, dry food, and other non-perishables at a local food bank. Last year we sorted toy donations for the Salvation Army. This year, however, we did something a little different - we decorated the outside of blank cards for soldiers to send to their loved ones back home. It's an effort sponsored by Operation Write Home. Their mission: "Supporting our nation's armed forces by sending blank handmade greeting cards to write home on."


At first, I didn't think I'd enjoy making the cards. For starters, I don't consider myself that creative. Cutting, pasting and coloring is not something at which I particularly excel. And to tell you the truth, my idea of volunteering, before Friday, was getting down and dirty at a shelter or soup kitchen of some sort. I thought it would be, quite frankly, lame.


I couldn't have been more wrong. Once I had the scrapbooking paper, colored pencils, scissors and markers in front of me, I was like an employee gone wild at Hallmark! I made birthday cards and thank-you cards and cards soldiers could send to their best friends, their husbands, wives, and children. The three hours our team spent making the cards went way too fast. And when it was all said and done, we made more than 100 cards!


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Photo courtesy of Jen Martin


The activity got me thinking of alternative ways to volunteer. It's not always the traditional ways, as I had thought before. Volunteering can be small gestures, self-directed activities, even something you can do online. Create The Good has a great list of ways to make a difference in 5 Minutes or less and if you're looking for a way to make a difference in a unique way this holiday season, Service Nation has a list of five ways to do something different this year.

What are some ways you can think of that are beyond the traditional idea of volunteering?

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