by:  Leah Love

Two and a half years ago, I realized that I really needed to find something to do. It’s not that I didn’t have things to do- I had a 4 year old and almost 3 year old at the time- but I needed to find something to do for me. With two young kids, most of my time was spent cleaning something up, doing more laundry (how is there always more laundry?) or having a child tell me their food was too hot, too cold or they suddenly decided their favorite, peanut butter and jelly, was suddenly the worst thing they’d ever eaten in their lives! I was quickly realizing that to be a good mom, and maintain my sanity, I needed to find something that I felt a part of that could make me feel good about contributing something to society, however small that contribution may be. With two young kids, going back to work full-time was cost prohibitive- it would have cost more for me to put them in daycare full-time than I would be taking home. Yet, I knew I needed something to feel “me” again and worried about the potential holes this time out of the workforce was putting in my resume.

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I started looking for opportunities and somewhere along the way, came across Blue Star Families. As a military spouse myself, the fit seemed natural. I poured over the website, read up on their volunteers opportunities and on a bit of a whim, decided to contact them. When they reached back out, I was ecstatic. Someone was interested in me! Soon I was going through training and getting set up as a volunteer- I was part of a team! I’m not sure they ever realized it, but they kind of saved me.

Before volunteering with Blue Star Families, I can’t say I’d volunteered much before. I always liked to help out when and where I could, but I’d never held any kind of a volunteer “position” with expectations and commitment. Since having children and leaving the workforce, I spent a lot of time thinking about why we define ourselves so much by our jobs and how you redefine yourself when all of a sudden you find that part of your identify gone or significantly altered. What I found was that this gap can often be filled through volunteering! Volunteering allows you to contribute to your community and give to causes for which you have a passion. It just makes you feel good. While simultaneously building your resume and experience so that when you are ready to reenter the workforce, you have recent experience to highlight to potential employers.

There are numerous reports that have hailed the value of volunteering- everything from studies showing the direct connection of volunteering as a pathway to employment to actual findings of health benefits tied to a person’s time spent volunteering. These benefits can certainly vary, but one thing is true across the board. There is something to be said for feeling like you are contributing something tangible to better your community. Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right? Creating better communities, where folks feel valued and appreciated and part of a team. So in this season of giving, find just one (or five!) ways to volunteer your time and talents in building a stronger community. Your health, your resume and your neighbors will thank you for it!

Interested in volunteering with Blue Star Families? Submit a volunteer interest form today!