These people of faith are volunteering outside the box when it comes to serving those in need. Read on to learn how they are putting their faith to work and find out how you can get started doing the same.
Linda Smith : Teaching English to immigrants
Donald Douglas : Providing health care for the uninsured
Sharyn Gildea : Making rosaries out of flowers
Michael Denson : Walking the last mile with death row inmates
James McLaughlin : Filing taxes for the poor
Derek Eisel : Protecting the environment
Taking that first step into volunteering is sometimes the hardest. How do you know where to begin and how to find the right match? Here are five tips from the volunteers profiled here.
- Don't let age be a factor. Some of the country's best volunteers are in their retirement years. They tend to have more time, and they bring experience to the table. It's a win-win situation for seniors who no longer have children to raise or have outside employment.
- Take stock of your professional skills and see how they can be used. A professional writer can offer to produce a newsletter for a nonprofit; a nurse can assist in a free health clinic; a lawyer can provide legal assistance to the poor. What you've learned in school and on the job is a valuable asset to an organization.
- What's your passion? Find a way to channel your heart into a program that needs your spirit. Here's where an animal lover can volunteer as a foster parent to rescue dogs, or a weekend artist can give painting lessons to inner-city children who can't afford private classes.
- Volunteering can be as far-ranging as an overseas stint in the Peace Corps or a few hours a week donated to a neighborhood project. Sometimes the biggest needs are right in front us, but we just don't see them. If your time is limited, focus on an effort that is in close proximity to your workplace or home.
- Find friends to join up with you. Volunteering doesn't have to be "work"-it can be fun, too. And with like-minded people sharing the load, this donated time can be a time to build relationships and share experiences with the people who matter most to you.
This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 2, pages 24-28).
Image: Linda Smith tutors Mateo Pedro at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, Florida. Photo courtesy of Hope CommUnity Center