Volunteers Benefit the Community and Themselves
This article was published in the Grand Haven Tribune in October 2014 written by Kevin Geary, Curator of Education/Volunteer Coordinator and Cate Reed, Education Program
The benefits of volunteering are many and varied. Giving back to your community is one of the main benefits. Volunteering also creates positive feelings within the individual. Furthermore, it is an excellent tool for those in and out of the workforce.
For the retired, being a volunteer is an excellent way to maintain the skills used while working. It provides an opportunity to practice the skills learned in the workforce, while leaving out the less pleasant aspects of the job that were faced on a day-to-day basis when working full time. For example, retired teachers may miss the opportunity to work with children, but are happy to leave lesson planning, conferences, and grading far behind.
For people currently seeking work, being an active volunteer is a great way to continue to add to your resume. We are often warned against having "gaps" or "blank spots" on resumes which could be a negative to potential employers. Filling those blank spaces with volunteering is a great way to add to your resume.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to learn and get training in a non-academic setting. Being out of school should not be a barrier for people who want to continue to learn new skills. Volunteering can count as work experience and can afford people the ability to learn new skills that can be listed on job applications.
Any professional will be quick to suggest frequent networking as a very important skill and is another way to aid in a job search. Volunteering offers the opportunity to meet people in a new setting and provides the perfect vehicle to make professional contacts. The larger ones set of contacts is, the better it will be in benefitting a job search.
Figuring out the sort of work you like to do, whether as a student or as a professional facing a career change, is crucial to feeling fulfilled in your job. It can be very difficult to identify your passions simply by reading about careers. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to try a career before committing to it, thus allowing the chance to narrow or broaden your job search.
The Tri-Cities Historical Museum offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Each department has specialized needs. For example, the Collections Department utilizes volunteers for sorting and numbering the museum's artifact collections. Data entry, organizing, and filing also help to support the work of the museum's staff.
The Education Department is always in need of volunteer support. Docents, or tour guides, do require specific training but are crucial to helping the museum reach out to school students, senior citizens, and to developmentally disabled members of our community. Docents also help conduct tours and other volunteers are often needed for special programming and events that the Education Department develops.
Volunteers with woodworking, painting and electrical skills can support the museum's Exhibits Department, as well as can anyone with the artistic ability to hang artwork during an exhibit installation. The museum's office staff can be supported by volunteers interested in helping with mailings, greeting visitors, working in the gift shop, or with proofreading ability.
Our largest, annual event, the Feast of the Strawberry Moon, requires over two hundred volunteers each year. Those interested in becoming involved can perform tasks ranging from being a food and beverage server to being a parking lot attendant or perimeter sentry to helping set up and tear down the campground.
All our volunteers are part of the Friends of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum. The Friends, as they are affectionately called, sponsor several activities throughout the year which require volunteer support. Our annual Historic Home Tour, in May, the Sidewalk Sale, in August, and the Holiday Marketplace, in November, all involve many dedicated individuals to make them a success. Additionally, the Friends provide much needed help at the many events and exhibit openings the museum hosts each year.
As you can see, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum needs and relies on its family of volunteers and more are always welcome. If interested, please contact the museum if you would like to become involved. But whether or not the museum is where you would like to place your volunteer effort, please get involved somewhere. The benefits to you and to the organization of your choice will be immeasurable.