NIAGARA VOICES: Resolve to give back to your community

By now we are three weeks into the new year, and all that pumpkin pie, egg nog and turkey is just a distant memory.

After the season of excess, I’m sure we have all turned our minds to our new year’s resolutions.

It is the time of year when having experienced our many, many blessings, we start over with a commitment to self-improvement. Maybe we want to lose weight, get fit or rein in our personal spending. All good intentions.

But what if we expanded our hearts and minds to include others in our quest for self-improvement?

What if you could do something aimed at self-improvement that would also benefit others? What if you resolved to get more involved in your community?

I know that here at Family and Children’s Services Niagara, we depend on our many volunteers, foster parents and donors to help us in our work with children, youths and families in Niagara.

Children do better in school because of our volunteer tutors, our foster parents provide a safe place for kids in a time of need, and our donors help make sure they get to go to camp and youths have opportunities for post-secondary education.

There are many, many worthwhile organizations in the Niagara community that could use your help. Call them or check out their websites. For a full listing of volunteer opportunities, you can go to (formerly Information Niagara) and explore their Niagara volunteer connections database at

Another option is to join a service club. This is a great way to give back, because it combines all the benefits of volunteering with networking, socializing and being part of a greater community.

My club of choice was Rotary. My only regret is I didn’t join sooner.

If Rotary is not for you, consider the Lions, Kinsmen or Kiwanis. There are lots of fine service clubs in our region, doing great work for our community.

And trust me, this is not your “grandfather’s service club.” These are dynamic, energetic and relevant organizations serving their members and their communities well.

Just in case you were thinking, ‘Yeah, but what’s in it for me?’ rest assured: volunteering is good for you. A 2015 Forbes magazine article shared what it called 5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering.

  • Volunteering time makes you feel like you have more time. Giving your time to others can make you feel more “time affluent” and productive as opposed to, say, wasting time or spending time on yourself.
  • Volunteering your skills helps you develop new skills. Skills-based volunteering is an excellent opportunity to develop talents to help you get ahead in your career.
  • Volunteering your body helps you have a healthier body. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression.
  • Volunteering your experience helps you build your own experience. Volunteering is a great way to try out a new field and to build a resume.
  • Volunteering your love makes you feel more love. Volunteering builds empathy, strengthens social bonds and makes you smile.

People who volunteer are happier.

It’s never too late or too early to start volunteering or giving back in some way.

Our high schools now require students to donate 40 hours of volunteering as part of their graduation requirement. Encourage your kids or grandkids to volunteer alongside of you, where appropriate. Give them the chance to see what it feels like to do some good with no expectation of compensation or reward.

Explore the many options available in your community. It might be a short-term but powerful contribution, such as donating blood. Or a longer-term transformational experience like fostering.

Take a collection of food for your local food bank or join your workplace United Way committee. There are opportunities all around us to give back and to help make our community a better place.

Just pick one. The person who benefits most might just be you.

— Ann Godfrey is director of communications and fundraising for Family and Children’s Services Niagara, and a Rotarian.

Bob Tymczyszyn/Postmedia network file photo

Source: Welland Tribune