Value of volunteering

Volunteers at God’s Pantry Food Bank sort, label and repack donated food.
Volunteers at God’s Pantry Food Bank sort, label and repack donated food.

As kids, we’re taught sharing is caring.

And, what better way to live out these values than by volunteering locally?

Marian Guinn, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank, says volunteering is what makes American communities great places to live.

“It’s valuable for people of all ages to volunteer year-round,” she said. “The holidays are just one of many, many times volunteers are needed throughout the community.”

At God’s Pantry, volunteers ages six and up can volunteer in the warehouse (open on Thursdays and Saturdays), sorting cans or helping with labeling and repacking.

Guinn also says food drives are a “tangible way for students to be involved.”

Stephanie Spires, the former director of Arbor Youth Services, an organization dedicated to providing for homeless kids and their families, says volunteering is huge, especially for children.

“A lot of kids don’t understand that (some) kids don’t have homes,” she said.

According to Spires, Arbor Youth Services sets up one-on-one meetings with all prospective volunteers.

For larger groups, there’s also an outreach program, where volunteers stuff and hand out bags of toiletry items (including soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.) and candy.

“We go out and meet kids in the street,” Spires said. “We interact with kids wherever they are.”

Jenn Goble, the community stewardship manager at United Way of the Bluegrass, believes that without volunteers, the world would be a much harder place to survive, much less thrive.

“People who are good volunteers as kids tend to be more generous toward others when they grow up,” she said.

Goble said families can call 211, where UWBG will connect them with an agency partner for a project.

“There is always Angel Tree purchases, working with the Salvation Army on the off days, i.e. not Thanksgiving or Christmas, but the other 363 days per year that they serve,” she said.

Carey Cairo, the volunteer manager at The Hope Center in Lexington, says volunteering can be a great eye-opener for children.

The Center’s Client Christmas Party, held every year, is a great way for children and people of all ages to get involved with this organization.

“We get jeans, coats, all kinds (of items),” Cairo said. “We also collect toys.”

Clients will receive one ticket for themselves and one for each of their children to redeem at the event.

“Someone will give their ticket to a friend, saying ‘I know you have kids, get them another toy,’” she said. “I think what I see at the Hope Center is people who are so thankful for what a lot of people take for granted.”

For many, gratitude closely follows the act of volunteering.

“Gratitude to me is being thankful for what I have and blessed to be able to share my skill set,” she said.

Goble says she’s grateful to all of those who volunteer in our community and with the United Way of the Bluegrass.

“To me, gratitude isn’t just saying ‘thanks’ and walking away. It’s about continuing to appreciate the good works done by community members year-round and continuing to do what I can to make sure their work doesn’t go unnoticed,” she said.