When my first child started kindergarten, I volunteered to be the editor for the school newsletter. Yes, I knew that it was a big undertaking. However, volunteering in such a large role opened up a lot of doors for me while helping out a good cause – the teachers and parents who were influencing and educating my children.
Volunteering in your child’s school, for their sports teams, scouts or church group is a win-win situation. They need your time, talent and donations and you get a back stage pass to a part of your child’s world that you may not have otherwise been privy to.
1. You can see and be seen. When you spend more time at the school or other activity, the people heading the events – teachers, coaches, etc. – get to know you and your child a little better and you get to know them. In addition, you can see your child and their friends at the events in their true form, the one they don’t always show when they are over for a playdate.
2. You will make connections to your child’s day. One of the benefits of volunteering at school is that you can see the places and the people who your child interacts with every day. You actually get to see what they do during Dear Time (Drop Everything and Read). You can meet the teachers’ aids, see the silly hat the librarian wears when she reads aloud and understand how the bathroom breaks work. That way when you child comes home to talk about them, you have a better understanding.
3. You will build your social network. As a volunteer, I have worked with dozens of parents over the years that I may not have otherwise reached out to at Open House night. By spending time on a committee together or working at Field Day, we formed bonds that led to wonderful friendships, even after the kids moved on to different friend groups.
4. Your time is money in their pocket. If you can share your gifts – graphic design, culinary talents, sewing skills, accounting knowledge – then the school or association does not have to use their limited funds to cover it. The money they spend can go directly to the kids and their experience.
5. They couldn’t do it without you. When you look at the big events at a school, like a carnival, it takes dozens and dozens of volunteers to put that together. Not only are people needed the day of, but also months before planning, fundraising and purchasing to make it all come together. In addition, without volunteers to coach teams and head church or scout groups, those groups couldn’t form without someone to lead.
6. Volunteer time looks good on a resume. If you are taking off time from work to raise your family, don’t let your resume show missing years of time. Explain your experience as a committee board member, the skills you used, the leadership you offered and the responsibilities you had. Even if you have not had a break in your employment history, volunteer time listed on your resume may help you get the job if the person interviewing you has similar interests.
7. It opens new doors. The connections you make can find you a new job or you can use your experiences as a stepping stone to get into something else. A friend of ours volunteered as a soccer coach after playing for years in high school and college. He forgot how much he enjoyed the game and later became a certified soccer trainer after his son moved onto something else.
8. You will learn new skills or shortcuts. A neighbor who had a daughter in marching band volunteered to help with uniforms during the season – mending and hemming as needed. She had always wanted to learn to sew and her time with the experienced band moms gave her the opportunity to try it.
9. You are setting an example for your child. It is quite common that the child of a volunteer becomes a volunteer themselves. In a recent conversation with my daughter’s high school coach, she mentioned that the only kids who help clean up the dugout and carry the equipment back to the gym without complaint are daughters of travel softball coaches. Working together to get something done comes naturally to them as they have been doing it for years.
10. It just feels good. You have a sense of belonging to a community of people who have a common bond. Giving of your time is a precious gift and often more generous than writing a check. The memories you are creating with your child and for yourself will last a lifetime.
Pam Molnar is the mother of three and an avid volunteer. She is a proud to have served as a Newsletter Editor, Room Mom, Girl Scout Leader, Religious Ed teacher, Team Mom and still heads a committee at the high school.