Honestly, the first several minutes I wanted to leave. I kept thinking, what am I doing here, why did I sign up for this because I can be a bit scared around dogs. See, I’ve been bitten a few times in the past and I definitely understand the fact that they are animals and they can attack. BUT the fact is, many many many dogs don’t attack people and are wonderful living creatures that need love and safety just like you and me. That’s why I signed up to be a Canine Companion: to help dogs that have been neglected, injured, harmed or mistreated feel safe and loved.
So what do we do as Canine Companions?
We help walk and train the dogs, assist with research sometimes, answer questions from the public regarding their pets and generally help teach the dogs how to be around humans and control themselves.
Here’s a tidbit about the ARL from their website:
Founded in 1899, the Animal Rescue League of Boston is dedicated to rescuing domesticated animals and wildlife from suffering, cruelty, abandonment and neglect. Our work is carried out by a dedicated staff of 70 animal care providers, 400 volunteers and is supported each year by more than 24,000 donors.
Even though I volunteer at the ARL to help animals I also get a lot back in return.
Several months ago, I realized that while I was feeling pretty darn healthy, liked my job, had creative outlets and was having lots of fun with friends and family there was something important missing from my life. Something I couldn’t quite pin point. Then I read a great article about volunteering and how people find it can fill these holes they feel in their life and their spirit and it dawned on me that this was my problem as well. I was content with my own life but I wasn’t doing anything for others… I wasn’t giving back or helping make an impact on other people’s lives.
I was just focusing on me and that wasn’t enough to feel complete.
A Lifetime of Volunteering
Now, I’ve grown up believing in the importance and value of community service. My mom is the main reason. She is one of the most considerate and generous people I know and she was always baking breads for the Veterans that lived down the street, donating cookies to the school bake sale, helping out with school fundraisers, etc. etc. etc. Essentially, my mother showed me that helping others actually helps you become a better person in return.
Since I grew up believing in the importance of volunteering it wasn’t hard for me to become even more involved in the community during High School. I used to volunteer A LOT: I spent time babysitting at Parent Teacher conferences and PTA meetings, working at the nearby dog shelter, visiting nursing homes on Friday nights for Game Night, painting fire hydrants, buildings and nonprofit offices, collecting cans and clothing and books and anything else I could fit in my car for community shelters and the list goes on. In fact I even had my own business called “Erin’s Community Catering” that would bake and deliver desserts, treats and breakfast items to Veteran homes, nursing homes, the Brockton Children’s Hospital, fire stations, nurses and elderly or disabled neighbors. I did all of this not because someone was forcing me but because it was fun, enjoyable and I always felt great afterwards.
Through volunteering I gain
An amazing feeling of accomplishment and general happiness
More appreciation for my own life and circumstances
A better understanding of the poverty and unhappiness around me
Respect for those struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families
Inspiring feelings of hope, positivity and gratitude
Through volunteering I feel more whole, more capable, more valuable and a better person overall.
Finding the Right Volunteering Opportunities
Like I said, several months ago I knew that I wanted to volunteer so all I had to do was figure out where! Well, after researching non-profit groups I quickly realized that it wasn’t as easy as it was in high school. Most shelters and food banks wanted a committment of at least 1 – 2 days a week and that usually included a Saturday or Sunday, and some groups didn’t have volunteer opportunities anytime after 5 PM. Essentially my schedule just wasn’t going to work with these limitations.
That’s why I did the Book Drive for the Elizabeth Stone House - I wanted to help out so badly that I decided to find a way to help in my free time. So, I put together an entire book drive by myself: found a great group that needed help with their library, talked to Boston Sports Club about letting me collect books in their gym, gathered all of the books and then dropped them off! Overall I collected over 450 books for the Elizabeth Stone House! So it’s not impossible to find ways to help out even if you don’t have a lot of spare time!
When it was done though I felt good but realized I wanted to do more. That’s why I signed up to be a Canine Companion and I hope to find more ways to become involved in my community. Throughout the next year I am planning on becoming involved with the really amazing group yogaHOPE that is dedicated to improving health and wellbeing through increased access to yoga-based mindfulness tools for underserved women in recovery and also work with the Boston Girls on the Run chapter which educates and prepares girls for a lifetime of self respect and healthy living.
I want to work with all three of these groups, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Boston Girls on the Run, and yogaHOPE, because I believe in their mission statement, their goals and the value of their hard work and dedication.
So, even though it sounds corny it’s true…
Volunteering Makes Me a Better Person
Do you volunteer?? If so I would love to hear from you below!!