By Representative Jessica Fay
Doing something for someone else improves your life. No matter what our age, we all feel better when we have a purpose and when we are helping others. Volunteering with a community, town or social service organization can provide an important outlet for that sense of personal fulfillment. This is not just me saying it, studies have shown that volunteering is good for our health, decreasing the risk of depression, reducing stress levels and keeping people who volunteer more physically and mentally active.
Over these last few months I have found that volunteering has been a lifeline for me and has helped me stay in touch with our community and its needs. Even as we are more physically distant, I have found that we can build community through volunteering.
I often hear from volunteers that they get more out of the experience than they put in, and they are the lifeblood of our communities and towns. Local governments couldn't function without good people giving of themselves to run for office or serve on boards and commissions. Our libraries and food pantries are staffed and run by those who give their time freely, allowing them to operate with a minimal paid staff.
In these troubled times, lots of people need help and there are many organizations both large and small that could use new volunteers. There are also a lot of people who find that they suddenly have more time on their hands and a need to interact safely with others. Volunteering can be a win-win all around.
No special talents are required, just a willingness to learn and the desire to help. Do you like to drive? Consider volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels. Do you like to garden? Participate in your local initiative to beautify the community. Like to hike? Offer to help a land trust to maintain trails. These are only a few of the many volunteer opportunities out there in our community.
Our elections couldn't be held without volunteers. Many of the people who work at the polls do so because they believe in our democracy, because making sure that every vote counts is a civic duty.
Most people engaged in volunteerism don't do it for the recognition, but because they want to give back to their communities, their friends and their neighbors. These people deserve to be noticed, however. In Maine, "The Spirit of America Award" recognizes community volunteers who have gone above and beyond in service to their communities. In Raymond this year the honor goes to Richard and Cleo Sanborn for their lifetime of service on town boards and committees and for their strong sense of civic responsibility. Congratulation on the award and thank you Richard and Cleo for all you have done to make Raymond a better place!
Sadly, volunteerism has fallen off in the last years. The reasons why are many. People are living and working in different communities, they are working longer hours. Trying new things can also be hard. If you are wondering whether volunteering is for you, sign up to help out at an event or volunteer on a one time or trial basis, or offer to help on a project that you notice needs doing. It will help your community and probably make you feel good in the process.
Representataive Jessica Fay is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland and Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. <