People Helping People: How Volunteering Advances the Common Good

 

Volunteering is in the DNA of every Kansan. When the pioneers were settling the Old West, they came together for a day of work, food and fellowship when it was time for a large project, like a barn-raising. Too large a project for any one person or any one family to accomplish, the community pitched in and got the job done, each according to his or her specific abilities.

Still true today, our community faces challenges too large for any one person to complete alone. Volunteering is an exponential way to harness the caring power that resides in all of us to come together and advance the common good by tackling something larger than ourselves. When everyone is willing to contribute their unique talents he or she brings to a complex challenge, amazing things can be accomplished.

Volunteer projects can be large – like barn-raisings of yesteryear – or they can be smaller projects completed individually. A great way to discover what projects are awaiting your individual talents is to visit the website for United Way’s Volunteer Center at https://www.unitedwayplains.org/united-way-volunteer-center/ and click on the FIND A PROJECT NOW box.

More than 300 nonprofit organizations in Wichita and south central Kansas have listed volunteer projects designed to meet their organizations’ needs. These nonprofits count on the selflessness of volunteers, those people willing to give freely of their time and effort, to help their community fulfill critical needs in helping our neighbors who need it most. These volunteer opportunities are just waiting to be matched with the interests and talents that are inherent in the citizens of Wichita.

But in a time of challenges to volunteer service due to the coronavirus pandemic, many volunteer activities have – necessarily – been placed on hold. However, other projects have been designed to be completed at home and returned to various nonprofit agencies – perfect for those who are socially distancing, but still have a desire to serve.

Our Volunteer Center at the United Way of the Plains also helps connect students with local volunteer needs. Community service and volunteer hours help resumes and even college applications stand out and be noticed. Historically our annual spring break activity – Youth Days of Caring – has provided students with a full week’s worth of volunteer opportunities at numerous local agencies. Whether this will be able to take place in 2021 is still undetermined, but the United Way website and Facebook page provide updates on Youth Days of Caring as well as other opportunities for students to volunteer all year round.

Volunteering is also a great team-building activity, and the United Way Volunteer Center tailors one-time volunteer projects at local nonprofits to fit the needs of individual groups including size, interest area, schedule and location.  As a means of corporate engagement, employees can demonstrate an active role in their company’s social responsibility plan through volunteering. We can help pair the employees’ passion with our knowledge of community needs and help design a meaningful project that enhances teamwork, strengthens employee morale, improves retention, and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the community.

The United Way can also bring a group volunteer project to you! After we determine any financial costs involved, our professional staff can handle the project’s logistics including obtaining supplies, activity set-up, guidance of volunteers through the project, coordination of an agency speaker (if desired) and delivery of the finished project. While we can make volunteering as easy as possible by taking on some of these coordinating tasks, your key role will still be to supply the volunteers who have the passion to help others.

Our neighbors may not need our help to raise a barn today, but rest assured, our community has neighbors who need our help in many other ways. As Kansans, we know how “to reach for the stars through difficulties,” learned through decades of coming together to harness the exponential power of volunteering. Oscar Wilde reminds us that “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” Let 2021 be the year that moves you from intention to action and join with your neighbors to strengthen our community by helping advance the common good through volunteering.