I’m a Floridian by default, but a Hoosier by choice. I studied at Indiana State University, lived in Columbus, and now my husband and I reside in Indianapolis. One of the best ways I’ve found to immediately get connected to the pulse of a community is through volunteering. But, it turns out that there are other, wonderful benefits that come from this activity.
The Mental Health Benefits
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but good mental health has been on everyone’s mind since the pandemic began last March. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 8 in 10 Americans say the pandemic is a significant source of stress. Furthermore, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder as of January 2021.
The Mayo Clinic and other researchers have studied the effects of participating in volunteer activities and found it can help address those feelings of uncertainty, fear, and isolation you’ve been experiencing for over a year now. Spending an afternoon with your favorite nonprofit can decrease your risk of depression, create social opportunities to form relationships with others who have a shared interest, reduce stress, and keep you active. An all-around antidote to languishing, as it were.
I recently volunteered with the Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) for their 2021 Live Local Think Global annual event. While we had to “committee by Zoom” for several months, I found myself looking forward to seeing their faces in little boxes each week to plan this hybrid fundraising event. When we were safely able to meet each other at the event, it increased the pride I felt all those months being part of bringing such a meaningful event back to the community.
Was it weird to meet people for the first time in person after you’ve been video chatting for four months? Sure. But, the relationships I built because of this opportunity and the sense of accomplishment I felt in helping IWC exceed their fundraising goal was well worth that momentary weirdness.
The Workplace Benefits
Because of the mental health benefits that come from volunteering, it makes sense that many businesses offer employee volunteer programs. If you and your coworkers are happier, then it makes for a more enjoyable environment with positive morale.
Well Done Marketing, a full-service agency in Fountain Square, offers our team paid time off to volunteer on our own and as a team. We each have two full days to dedicate to the organization of our choosing. Our employees continuously take advantage of these opportunities throughout the year—we volunteer with animal shelters, food pantries, homeless shelters, schools, community centers, youth sports teams, polling locations during election years, and more.
Our team also collectively chooses a pro bono client every year. We vote to work with a specific organization and donate over 100 hours of work. Luckily, we’ve even been able to carry out that work during the pandemic.
It also makes us really happy that a number of our clients advocate for giving back to the community too. For example, MJ Insurance identifies a charity in each city they’re located every two years to dedicate volunteer efforts toward. Community engagement is also a core value for Katz, Sapper & Miller (KSM). Through their “Time & Talents Program,” KSM donates to organizations that employees volunteer with for 24 hours or more in one year.
How You Can Get Involved—Even Now
As nonprofits continue to navigate how to serve their communities through the pandemic, many have found safe ways to offer volunteer opportunities. Here’s how you can start volunteering in Indy today:
- Check out current opportunities via IndyHub
- Volunteer through your place of employment
- Encourage your leadership team to establish volunteer opportunities
- If searching for a job, ask about volunteer benefits during your interview
The residual effects of the pandemic will have an impact on our community for months, if not years. There is and will continue to be huge demand for the resources and services nonprofits provide—so your support is needed. Not only do you know you’ll be lending a hand, but you’ll also be calmer, more collected, and more connected to your community.
Meet Rachel Leininger
Rachel Leininger is the PR Manager at Well Done Marketing. She works on strategic public relations and social media campaigns for clients in a variety of industries, including health care, nonprofits, education, energy, and professional services. She also manages public relations and social media efforts for the agency’s brand. Rachel is an advocate for racial justice, working with mutual aid organizations like No Questions Asked Food Pantry and activist groups including Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Cosecha Indiana, and more. When she isn’t working or marching for change, Rachel enjoys trying to get all the answers right on Jeopardy, perfecting recipes she saw on Top Chef, and watching every mafia movie ever made.
Follow her on Instagram: @rachelleininger1 and LinkedIn: @Rachel-Leininger.