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When I was young, I used to go with mom to take a neighbor grocery shopping. At the time, I didn’t know I was volunteering. I was just raised to believe that helping others was important. As I grew up, I began volunteering more with Girl Scouts and with church, and learned what “volunteering” meant to me – both literally and emotionally.
These days, I volunteer with Rotary projects in Apple Valley and Prior Lake, with church, and by knitting hats for the homeless. I also on my own enjoy helping neighbors in my apartment building if I see they need help, and I pick up trash on my walks with my fur baby, Mollie Lou (see below for a picture!).
Volunteering to do something I love or to help someone in need gives me something very special in return – an emotional reward. It’s personal, it’s important, and I know it makes my life meaningful. The thought I put in each stitch of my knit hats hoping it will keep someone warm, or walking with someone to their apartment with a bag of their groceries because their children are too much to handle at the moment, or even the trash I pick up while out on a walk because I want to help make my neighborhood beautiful.
Seeing smiles, hearing thank you’s, a hug, or even the satisfaction that I made a difference without anything in return makes it all worth it. Volunteering takes heart and it’s good for your heart!
I fondly look back at my time spent volunteering with Wilderness Inquiry, where I took people of all abilities and ages on camping adventures. We as volunteers used our hands to create an unforgettable experience for our campers, and our campers used their hands to tackle an adventure they had never had before.
When I met recently with our ProAct, Inc. Snow Angel team, one of our volunteers, Abby, said to me, “I keep volunteering because I like to help people and it feels rewarding to help my community.” She went on to say, “It feels good. Volunteering opens more opportunities for me, (and) as a person with a disability it shows me I can make a difference for someone else. Growing up, I always wanted to help people and now these volunteer opportunities with DARTS have helped fulfill that dream.”
How many hands have touched your life with their help? For me, the answer is SO MANY. How many hands help our older homeowners in need exactly each year? SO MANY. Everyone from families with young children, corporate partner groups, school groups, and individuals looking to help a neighbor after work have touched the lives of our older homeowners. All these amazing hands doing so much good!
Before DARTS, I worked in a Housing Counselor role in Apple Valley, and prior to that I was a Life Enrichment and Volunteer Director in Burnsville. As much as I enjoyed being a Housing Counselor, I missed working with volunteers. My first experience with DARTS was hiring them to drive on community outings for my residents in Burnsville, before we had a bus (2003 or so). I have always appreciated the mission of DARTS, and I wanted to get back into volunteer work.
The best part of being a Volunteer Manager with DARTS is just being there with the volunteers and helping them rake, shovel, grieve a lost Respite friend, or share a sandwich. Matching volunteers with how they want to help and hearing how they see the difference they make makes my heart happy!
DARTS staff along with volunteers help transform the aging journey from a challenge into a celebration. Volunteers are the connections the connections between hands and hearts in our community. DARTS volunteers ARE the connections that enrich aging.
To learn more about DARTS volunteer opportunities, go to the DARTS website at dartsconnects.org/volunteer or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Lindy is here to connect you to the volunteer journey that best suits you!
I joined DARTS as the Volunteer Manager in February 2022. I have been managing volunteers and working with older adults for over 20 years in Dakota and Scott Counties. Helping my older neighbors is my passion and brings me true joy! Originally from St. Paul, I live in Apple Valley with my boyfriend and pup and am involved in the community as an active member of the Apple Valley Rotary. Besides reading good murder-mysteries and taking care of my growing houseplant collection, I love to volunteer in my spare time knitting hats for the homeless and making dog treats for local animal shelters. Not only do I give through volunteering, but I can also put myself “in the shoes” of and appreciate those I am lucky to have as volunteers with DARTS.
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