There is an abundance of good work that takes place in our communities, and it might not be obvious or well-known. It is the work of volunteers through faith-based organizations of every denomination. The religious purpose of volunteering adheres to a higher purpose, and many in the faith-based community aspire to this principle. Faith-based organizations, such as the Salvation Army, are also typically organized in their service capacity, have a unique connection to or understanding of a certain need, enjoy access to a lot of human capital, and provide an excellent opportunity to serve those in need.
When I was a new volunteer coordinator for a public agency, I was discouraged from recruiting faith-based groups to my program. Having been a member of a church for my entire life, it seemed plausible because of the existing service component in the faith-based community. Besides, it seemed a little sketchy to me working on the public sector side of things. However, as my program expanded and earned media, volunteers from all over town joined the team. Faith-based groups from every population were interested in my volunteer program. I could not turn them down.
One of my favorite groups included a Filipino American Church. The two amazing service leaders were Max and Virgie Villavert. They were the most sincere, heart-felt, volunteers who really wanted to make a difference. Max and Virgie spent Friday nights hosting a teen program for neighborhood youth as an alternative for fun, and at some activities had around 100 kids in attendance. As volunteers for my program, they were constantly seeking out elderly neighbors in need and going the extra distance to help out. Max and Virgie did not expect anything in return except the opportunity to offer a helping hand.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of faith-based teams on one-time volunteer projects as well as ongoing endeavors. These groups provide a unique opportunity to volunteer, as members include all backgrounds. Some of these groups have the ability to reach individuals in their communities that will not respond to offers of assistance from outsiders. Others have a sheer volume of human capital through their numbers. They certainly make the difference.
If you are a member of a faith-based organization, or if you live near a faith-based organization, contact leaders and find out what work they are doing in the community. Faith-based organizations in my community do anything from operate a food closet and homeless shelter for women and children, to collecting in-kind donations of needed materials for a cancer center and provide free employment services. Through my church, my family contributes monthly donations to three local nonprofit organizations, and we have worked with youth in building life skills and personal development among other things. At the end of the day it does not matter what you believe, but what you do to help others that counts.
What is your experience with faith-based volunteering? Please share. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!