Why do IBX Associates Volunteer?
Sometimes the hardest part of volunteering is getting started. We keep waiting until we have more time, until we find the right organization, until we figure out how we can help.
But volunteering is easier and more rewarding than you think. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Michelle Histand, Director of Innovation at Independence Blue Cross. As part of the United Way Days of Caring, Michelle led a group of 50 IBX associates in renovating an outdoor space for Turning Points for Children, a local agency that helps improve the lives of foster children. This was one of 11 service projects that took place throughout the region, supported by nearly 250 IBX associate volunteers. Michelle gave me a lot of great advice on volunteering that I want to share.
Q: There are so many organizations that need volunteers. How do I choose one?
A: Find a cause that’s close to your heart. Start with what you love and what moves you most. I love kids and animals, so anything to protect and help them is what I look for. This is how I came to learn about Turning Points for Children. For the last few years, I’ve been involved with their holiday toy drives and I even had the chance to see some of the kids receiving their gifts. It was so touching.
And more recently, I took part in the beautification efforts at the agency. Together with my fellow IBX associates, we transformed the outdoor area into a truly beautiful retreat for the children, their families, and the social workers who help them. We cleaned up, painted colorful murals, built sandboxes and furniture and raised garden beds, and planted flowers. The volunteers had a lot of fun and the agency workers were truly grateful for the help. I can tell you that everyone walked out of there with a big smile on their face, thinking about the difference they had made.
Take a look at the before and after pictures — it’s amazing what you can get done in a day when you work together!
Q: What’s better? Volunteering time or donating money?
A: Both time and money are always needed. But while nonprofit agencies always need money, I highly recommend volunteering your time to some of your favorites. This helps you create a personal connection and makes you feel better when donating your money. I donate some of my annual United Way pledge to Turning Points for Children, and I love that I can see right where the money goes. Everyone I’ve met who works there is dedicated and kind and does so much with so little.
Q: What if I don’t have the right skill set to volunteer?
A: You don’t need any special qualifications to volunteer. Think about what you love to do and how you enjoy spending your time. You’d be surprised at how many different types of skills are needed. From reading to the elderly, to serving food to the homeless, to walking shelter dogs, to playing with little kids, there are plenty of ways you can help. I love shopping, so picking out holiday gifts is a great fit for me! And I’ve always admired Back on My Feet, a cool organization that uses running as a way to help homeless individuals gain confidence and independence. But running is not my strong point, so instead I’m on the planning committee for the annual fundraiser, where I can use my organizational and networking skills to help.
Q: What if I don’t have enough time to volunteer?
A: Every little bit counts. Don’t wait until you have more time. Life only gets busier. Once I had kids and started going back to school, I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to volunteer work. But I learned that there are plenty of ways to contribute that don’t require a lot of time, like the few hours a month I’ve spent planning for Back on My Feet, or picking up some extra holiday gifts while shopping for my own kids. There are so many causes and people and animals that need help. The United Way and the Blue Crew (Independence’s corporate volunteer program, made up of IBX associates) have been really helpful in opening my eyes to other agencies.
Q: Why volunteer?
A: Think of volunteering as a responsibility. I think we all have a responsibility to one another and to those who are in need — human and animal. I really feel a need to contribute to the world in a larger way, and help others because I’m so fortunate and have so much. It’s so easy to take it all for granted, which is why sharing my time or money with someone who has less means so much. When there are so many things that need attending to, it gives me a little bit of peace of mind to know I’m helping, even if it’s in the smallest of ways.
Ready to get involved? The United Way site is a great place to start. Find out how you can donate, volunteer, or advocate for agencies right in our own backyard.