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Ask some people about ways to volunteer in community efforts, and they might come up empty handed. It can be hard to figure out how to start volunteering, and full schedules as well as uncertainty contribute to inertia. And many might feel the amount of giving — say just an hour or two — won’t matter to an organization or their community.
They’d be wrong: Even the smallest volunteer work ideas have a big impact. Think about a small increment of time — say, 120 minutes, the same amount that you might spend watching a movie. Give those hours to local non-profit and charitable groups and you can help bring lasting change to your community. In part that’s because acts of service benefit organizations by freeing up hours and resources for staff to devote to other efforts, making a profound economic impact. Combined, Americans give $167 billion worth of hours every year. In short, volunteers allow charities to do more without spending more.
In addition, even small amounts of time spent volunteering can have a positive chain-reaction effect on your community — your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and even yourself. Volunteering boosts quality of life by helping you forge new relationships, relieves stress and anxiety, improves your physical and mental health, and boosts self-esteem. Volunteering as a family can be a great way to instill a spirit of giving together at a young age.
Jamie Chamberlain is just one example of a volunteer who began giving back with small amounts of time and whose life has been changed for the better. When she first began helping at a local animal shelter organization, she did intake. Now she donates 100-plus hours each year with responsibility not just for animals but for training others. “It’s a great place to relieve stress and get some furry attention,” she says. “I always leave there happier than I was when I arrived.”