This picture shows my mother volunteering her time and energy.  The return on such activities is tremendous at any age. Volunteering gave her purpose and kept her engaged.  My dad volunteered into his 70s, working as an interpreter for Amnesty International.

A few years ago, my husband and I made the decision to move after living in one town for many years.  We had a comfortable life in a wonderful small town with friends nearby, a great bookstore, a town beach and many other things we miss.  We moved from the town where our children were educated and had many of their childhood friends and memories.

We chose a nice house in a diverse community near family and set about creating a new community.  We found quickly that the easy relations that arise from meeting other school parents just was not available to us. We joined some organizations and met some neighbors. Still, finding community eluded us.

We went on about our business, but since neither worked in a local office, did not find new friends through work.  Family obligations got in the way of actively seeking social contacts, and we de-prioritized a social life for a time.

Gradually, I began volunteering. First with organizations related to my work such as the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) and the Association of Women in Science (AWIS). Later with my local synagogue and the town’s Chamber of Commerce, and most recently with the Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA).

Without realizing it, I had built a community and a network of friends, colleagues, and fellow golfers that welcomed us and with whom I enjoy spending time. The key was not just joining but also volunteering. Extending myself to be of service to others without necessarily thinking about “what’s in it for me” became an unconscious investment.

How else can volunteering help? Beyond the social connections that volunteering created for us, volunteering can be a wonderful way to learn things, try new skills, build capacity and test abilities. Volunteering generally only costs us time and effort, but the ROI can be measured in many more ways.

What volunteer opportunities are open to you? What would you like to explore through volunteering?