A Life-Changing Experience
Most people think that staying active means physically fit. While this is true, strengthening the mind and spirit are just as important and as the saying goes, “You’re never too old to learn something new.” Sometimes learning something new means making connections with others – by volunteering.
Serving as a volunteer is one way to help others and through it, meet and connect with individuals of all ages. Volunteering not only helps those who need it, but can also provide a sense of purpose — knowing you are doing your part to support others while also giving you a chance to meet new people, and make friends along the way.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the federal agency that oversees the nation’s volunteer and service efforts through Americorps and Senior Corps. According to a report released in February by CNCS, many seniors age 55 and over benefit from time spent volunteering. The study was conducted over a two-year period and during that time seniors observed improvements in their health and well being while reporting feeling less depressed and lonely.
There are hundreds of local organizations looking for volunteers. These organizations range from large — such as the San Antonio Food Bank — to much smaller, like your local library or church. Many of these organizations could not carry-out their missions without the help of much-needed volunteers. Expressing an interest in volunteering is easy and can be done with a phone call, e-mail, or by filling-out an online registration form.
If volunteering is new to you — you may want to start small by beginning with your local library or church. It might be easier to start the process if you look to the places where you are familiar with the surroundings and the people. Both offer boundless opportunities to lend a hand. At libraries, help is needed with the standard procedural activities that help to run day-to-day functions — such as shelving books or maintaining collections. A fun bonus is the opportunity to assist with children’s activities and special functions.
Churches provide ample opportunities to volunteer. Within your own church help may be needed to maintain daily operations, assisting with greeting parishioners, community outreach, group outings, bible studies, retreats, Sunday classes, or even serving in the church nursery.
Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio or YMCA
If you want to serve one-on-one in the role of mentor or tutor, especially after school, the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio and the YMCA are great options that allow for that type of relationship building.
Hospitals are another great resource for working directly with individuals, including greeting patients or filling-in as a NICU cuddler. Contact your local hospital to inquire on specific volunteer opportunities.
San Antonio Food Bank
The San Antonio Food Bank is the most well-known agency in the city for combating hunger, operating in 16 counties and providing food for 58,000 individuals each week. They accept volunteer assistance year-round and have a list of volunteer needs on their website under Volunteer Registration. A good fit for seniors is the Apple Corp. Volunteers do everything from giving tours of the facility, to helping to lead, train, and mentor individuals on warehouse sorting projects.
Haven for Hope
Known for its impact on homelessness in San Antonio, Haven for Hope provides support through two programs. The Courtyard is Haven for Hope’s safe-sleeping program that provides those in need shelter and basic essentials. The Transformational Campus consists of a center where individuals and families can receive housing and services, such as counseling, education and other support. Volunteer help is needed at the Transformational Campus for assistance running these programs. Interested individuals are encouraged to take a tour to learn more and find the best fit for your interests. Single-day projects are available if you’re looking for short-term opportunities to serve.
The Children’s Shelter
The Children’s Shelter gives a safe-haven to children in San Antonio who have gone through trauma such as abuse, neglect or abandonment. A number of services, programs, therapeutic care, and an emergency shelter are all made available to children, youth and families. Volunteers are always needed at the emergency shelter to help with the children. The Shelter’s service projects are another way an individual or group can assist in a volunteer capacity.
These are just a few options to explore, but no matter where you turn, you’re sure to find a place where you can have an opportunity to serve. You’ll find that serving others can be as fulfilling to you as it is to the people you serve.
Volunteer San Antonio
United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County
Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio
(210) 223-5203 ext. 161
Any Baby Can
San Antonio Youth Literacy
Dress for Success San Antonio
San Antonio Humane Society
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas
Therapy Animals of San Antonio
Family Service Association
Family Violence Prevention Services, Inc.
The Battered Women’s and Children’s Shelter
By Jennifer O’Neill