Points of Light, a global network promoting effective volunteerism, estimates the value of a volunteer’s time at $24.69 per hour.
But local nonprofit leaders say the benefits of this service go beyond monetary value. Their organizations rely on dedicated volunteers to move their missions forward and act as ambassadors to the communities they serve.
“Volunteers truly make our mission possible,” said Tanya Yachaina, volunteer coordinator for Harvest Hope Food Bank. “Not only does the gift of volunteer time save our organization over a million dollars in staffing costs; volunteers also infuse essential energy into our work with their compassion, dedication and innovation.”
Andrea Smith, executive director of Senior Action, said acts of service are one of the best ways to support the community while improving your own health and well-being. Her organization depends on volunteers to keep operating, and also promotes a culture of service among its members for its benefits to them.
“We have so much data saying that being cut off socially is harmful to your health for people of any age,” Smith said. “Serving others is a great way to combat isolation. It’s physically good for you — usually it makes you move and become actively engaged with people, and creates a heart of gratitude.”
Younger people often share their gifts at Senior Action by teaching a class, she said. Family groups and teens looking for service hours can sign up to staff bingo night, manning the concession stand and greeting participants. Seniors can fill a range of meaningful roles by joining the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. The best way to connect is through their website, senioraction.org
“Serving others is a great way to combat isolation. It’s physically good for you — usually it makes you move and become actively engaged with people, and creates a heart of gratitude.” – Andrea Smith, executive director, Senior Action
“There are tons of opportunities,” Smith said. “Nonprofits are hungry for experienced people to serve on their boards, to do filing and administrative tasks necessary to keep their organizations running. If you have the treasure of time, please find a way to help. You set out to help others, but you get back so much more than you give.“
Jeri Kleckley, director of donor and volunteer engagement for United Way of Greenville County, said besides the demonstrated health benefits and the “warm glow” effect of helping others, many people learn valuable skills through volunteer engagement. These advantages and the chance to build networks apply to groups as well. Corporate interest in volunteering is high among businesses of all sizes, she said, and can help firms enhance their corporate image and meet their corporate social-responsibility goals.
“A key driver is the desire to attract and retain top talent,” Kleckley said. “Employees want to make a difference; volunteering allows them to do that while they strengthen teams and develop skills and leadership.”
Explore and connect
United Way’s platform, Hands on Greenville, houses volunteer opportunities from 423 area nonprofits as well as United Way programs such as Hands on Greenville Day and School Tools. Agencies post their opportunities and a users can search the site for ones that meets their interests, skills, passions and time availability. Users can create volunteer profiles and use the site to record hours, interests, causes and create their volunteer resumes. To explore a wealth of opportunities, and get a glimpse of some of the great things happening in the community, visit: www.handsongreenville.org
Below is just a small sampling of the many volunteer opportunities available in Greenville County:
Food and Shelter
Harvest Hope Food Bank volunteers are committed to taking action to reduce food insecurity in our community. Volunteers are needed most to staff the busy emergency food pantry, which provides groceries to an average of 200 families daily. Many volunteer tasks surround preparing food donations and serving the public in need; they may include boxing or bagging food, quality-assuring food, stocking shelves, packing client carts, administrative and social service support, and assisting with events. There are opportunities for individuals and groups, youth and adults. To learn more, contact Tanya Yachaina [email protected] to schedule a tour.
Habitat for Humanity: Even if you’ve never swung a hammer before, as a volunteer, you can work alongside family members who are taking steps toward homeownership, and learn valuable skills at a Habitat for Humanity build or weatherization/repair project. Beyond construction, Habitat for Humanity has other positions and needs that may be of interest, such as site host, receptionist, family services team (home visits and mentorship) or ReStore support (sorting, testing and displaying items). Sign up at https://habitatgreenville.volunteerhub.com/
Children and Education
The Center for Developmental Services brings together care providers under one roof to serve more than 9,000 individuals with developmental delays or disabilities. Dana McConnell, executive director, said CDS uses about 300 volunteers each year. “Last year, we had 541 hours of time donated, representing a value to CDS of about $10,820,” she said. Activities include assisting with special events throughout the year, weekly tutoring for 5–12-year-olds, summer reading, crafts, music, Sign-language and Spanish translation, and indoor and outdoor maintenance and sanitizing tasks. To learn more, contact volunteer coordinator Paul Bixby at 864-331-1445 or [email protected].
A Child’s Haven is a therapeutic child care center for children with developmental delays as a result of limited resources, abuse, or neglect. They welcome individuals and groups for tasks from playground maintenance and sorting and sanitizing classroom items to assisting with arts and crafts or accompanying groups on field trips. (A background check is required for ongoing jobs working with children.) “We’re a Greenville County organization that improves our community,” said Michael Beaver, senior development and communications director. “Bring your team out and see what we do.” For more information, visit https://achildshaven.org/volunteer/.
Careers and Transitions
Junior Achievement sends volunteers into the classroom to teach children from Kindergarten–grade 12 how to prepare for their future and own their own economic success. The curriculum, which focuses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness skills, is provided, along with training and all materials. Programs are delivered two different ways: Traditional-format lessons are taught once a week for three–seven weeks, 30–45 minutes per week. “JA in a Day” offers all five lessons taught back-to-back in one day. Volunteers can choose their program, school and time. There are several opportunities to teach “JA in a Day” in Middle Schools, since JA is in every middle school in Greenville County. For more information, contact Susan Spencer, director of education and volunteers, at 864-312-6419, or visit: https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-upstatesc/volunteer.
Animals and the Environment
Izzie’s Pond provides rescue, rehabilitation and refuge for injured or orphaned waterfowl, wildlife and farm animals and educates the public on how best to coexist with wildlife and promote a thriving ecosystem. Volunteers are needed to transport, feed and care for animals, and also for building and craft projects, education and fundraisers. Even if you’re allergic to fur and feathers, check them out on Facebook for their sweet and comical raccoon, fox, and donkey’s-eye views of the world, or visit http://izziespond.org/.
Greenville County Animal Care is dedicated to promoting the compassionate treatment of animals in our community. Volunteers are asked to complete a two-hour training and pass a background check. Sign up online at https://www.greenvillecounty.org/ACS/. The next sessions are 5–7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 and noon–2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
Friends of the Reedy River serves as “the voice of the river,” advocating for adequate regulation to protect water quality, and educating the community on ways to maintain a healthy river ecosystem. The organizations sponsors several volunteer river cleanups each year. For more information, visit FriendsoftheReedyRiver.org or contact Olivia Dunn, activities and communications coordinator, at [email protected].
By the numbers
A quick look at United Way of Greenville County volunteer data for 2018:
- Number of volunteers activated: Through its internal volunteers, United Way’s Signature Days of Service, corporate engagement, affinity-group engagement and other opportunities it plans or connects people to, UWGC directly or indirectly activated 13,109 volunteers.
- Total volunteer hours for calendar year: 44,749
- Total impact: $1,104,852 (based on $24.69 per hour volunteer value)