Volunteering: The Ultimate Gift

Giving back to your community doesn’t require writing a check. In fact, to some organizations, your time is the ultimate gift. Without the generosity of caring people, many nonprofit organizations, fundraisers, and small startup businesses wouldn’t be able to thrive. Sharing your time with others is just as valuable as making a monetary donation — and sometimes even more so.

My Volunteer Experiences

I’ve been involved in multiple volunteer activities over the years: I helped raise money for the Petco Foundation by photographing people with their pets for five years, I’ve cheered on athletes at a cancer-fundraising footrace, and currently I spend my Wednesday evenings at a local barn as a volunteer in an equine therapeutic riding program.

I’ve been trained to both lead horses and assist riders who face physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive disabilities. For some reason, when they’re on horseback, all those labels melt away. They’re no longer wheelchair bound or confined to a walker. Many have told me they feel like they’re on top of the world when they’re on horseback.

Kindness Among Volunteers and Riders

Over the past five and a half years, I’ve seen incredibly caring and endearing moments in a dusty riding arena. The crew of volunteers is always eager to greet riders and help them groom and tack the horses.

I’ve witnessed shy clients form friendships with other riders and ask for volunteers by name. Multiple parents and caregivers have told me their riders anticipate “horse day” all week.

Volunteers in this program are close, too. There are multiple parent-child teams and pairs of spouses helping with the classes. It’s a great way for them to bond as family members and share kindness in the community. For me, it’s been a great way to make new friends.

You Can Make a Difference, Too

This volunteer activity is a one-hour-a-week commitment. By giving up some TV-watching time or cutting back on your social media browsing, you can make a difference and share in the ultimate gift of volunteering.

Not sure where to get started? Browse your local newspaper for volunteer ads or use an online volunteer search database to find an opportunity that fits your schedule and interests.

For me, helping people and spending time with horses is a dream come true.

Image source: Flickr