Sitting at my desk, staring at my calendar above my computer, I just couldn’t believe it. Was it really almost the end of 2018? Of course, there were many exciting things I did this year: met up with some long-lost friends, moved into a brand-new home and even took a vacation out of the country.
My year was filled with a lot of new experiences and chapters, yet, there was still something missing…
Growing up, I was a frequent volunteer in my hometown’s community pantry. It was something my parents and siblings always did, so, naturally, I often tagged along. There are no words to describe the feelings I got helping someone else. Every moment of volunteering allowed me to continue to build new perspectives.
The stories of struggle I heard along the way were grounding and humbling. They were continuous reminders of how fortunate I am, and showed me again and again how, when we come together, we really can uplift struggling individuals. Over time, these experiences helped shape who I became.
However, as we all know, time can get away from us. I grew up, I moved to a new city, my career began taking off and, before I knew it, those experiences became more of a distant memory. The perspective I had gained wasn’t lost, but it was fading.
Looking back at my desk calendar, I knew it was time to recommit.
“With the new year quickly approaching, I made an early resolution to begin volunteering once again.”
Positive feelings bubbled up in me, yet, I also had a little hesitation…how would I get involved? Where in my community can I make a difference?
So, I did what any person would. I jumped on my computer and started searching.
The power of the internet led me to United Way of Greater Toledo’s website. That’s where I saw I could get connected to volunteer projects and initiatives by simply calling United Way 2-1-1.
I always thought 2-1-1 was only for people who needed help. Yet, it seemed 2-1-1 was much more. It also acts as a free service to find ways to give help, too. With that new piece of knowledge, I picked up my phone and dialed 2-1-1.
I explained to the representative on the other end of the line that food pantries were close to my heart. She quickly gave me a rundown of various nonprofits with upcoming projects or ongoing needs, and soon my call was transferred to the pantry.
“Just like that, I was signed up to volunteer at a food pantry the following Tuesday.”
My first experience at the pantry was about three weeks ago, and since then, I’ve been back every week. Helping others and seeing the need in my community is again adjusting my perspective. The emotions and proud feelings I once experienced when I volunteered back in my hometown many years ago were back again.
Every time I leave the pantry, I see and feel the value of my support.
Sitting at my desk today, I smile at the red circle around each Tuesday of every month on my calendar; a simple reminder to stay involved and to keep helping those in need. And truly, it doesn’t take a fast-approaching new year to volunteer and gain new perspective. It simply takes a quick call to 2-1-1.
This post is brought to you by the generous support of the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc., which promotes the health, well-being and safety of older adults, persons with disabilities and family caregivers to foster independence.
*This is a fictional blog post. All identities outlined in success stories submitted to United Way are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.