It’s time to volunteer

Cecelia Nowack

In recent years, the general public has taken notice of the greater needs of their communities and responded in force. Part of this is in thanks to businesses promoting volunteerism. This trend not only benefits the team member and the company they work for, but also the community.

In 2015 alone, the Clark County Public Works Volunteer Program tracked more than 14,500 volunteer hours. According to the Independent Sector, the average estimated hourly value of volunteer time during 2015 was $23.56 per hour, valuing the volunteer hours for the volunteer program at $341,620.

The volunteer hours that were logged last year supported a variety of Public Works projects, including trail maintenance, litter, leaf and invasive plant removal, trail user counts and Adopt-a-Road. These projects all occur on an ongoing basis, thus the need for businesses and individuals in the community to engage.

Businesses can respond to this continuing need by organizing volunteer work parties. This helps them broaden and strengthen community connections and better understand the communities they are serving. And, businesses that participate in Adopt-a-Road or Adopt-a-Park receive recognition signs at their adopted site, providing increased exposure.

Not only is volunteering impactful to the community, but also good for your health. According to a study conducted at the National Institutes of Health, there is a correlation between our brain’s response to experiencing pleasure and the “joy of giving.” For example, the same part of our brain that lights up when we watch our favorite movies, lights up when we donate money or volunteer. This, in turn, can lead to increased happiness and a higher quality of life.

The Institutes of Health aren’t the only ones who believe that volunteering offers significant benefits. Take for example, Roxie Olsen, a dedicated Public Works volunteer and past president of the Hazel Dell Lions Club in Vancouver. When asked how volunteering has changed her life, she said, “Once you start volunteering it’s how you live to give. The fun and joy that comes from giving is an energy like no other.”

While volunteering is certainly a healthy activity, it’s also beneficial for employee development and engagement. Gallup, a company dedicated to researching, analyzing and offering guidance to businesses seeking to increase employee engagement reports, “87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.” This statistic further perpetuates the importance of activities in the workplace that promote engagement, such as volunteering.

Volunteering opens the doors for employees to develop new competencies as well as practice those used infrequently. They are able to build leadership and communication skills while mobilizing other team members to join together in supporting community projects. They pursue interests that they are passionate about as well as capitalize on raising business acumen while expanding their network. Cadet Manufacturing and Whole Foods Markets are great examples of businesses that have recognized the benefits of volunteering, having planned and participated in multiple Public Works volunteer events as a team.

As employees strengthen relationships and are exposed to new challenges, they grow appreciative of these opportunities and the camaraderie they create. This leads to higher engagement levels, which has a ripple effect. As engagement levels increase, overall employee satisfaction, team morale and employee retention increases. This has a direct effect on customer satisfaction and overall company revenue. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how helping build up a community through volunteering can directly impact the overall health of a business, its employees and the community. As communities blossom, so do the businesses and people surrounding them.

To learn more about Clark County Public Works Volunteer Program, visit parkhero.org.
Cecelia Nowack is a volunteer coordinator for Clark County Public Works. She can be reached at Cecelia.Nowack@clark.wa.gov. Photo courtesy of Smith Hammer Photography

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