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The magic of volunteering

20235447 - handsome teen volunteer cleaning streets with friendsDid you know that Utah is No. 1 in the country for volunteering? About 51 percent of Utah residents volunteer their time to nonprofit organizations, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. That’s significantly higher than the national average of about 30 percent.

In all, Utah’s volunteering efforts are valued at $3.2 billion. In addition to donating time, nearly two-thirds of Utah residents also give some amount of money to charitable organizations each year. However community service is measured, Utah is No. 1 among all states and Washington, D.C.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations in Utah continue to need help serving people in need. To find an organizations that needs volunteers, go to UServeUtah. Organizations would like volunteers to sign up in advance so they can be prepared to ensure the safety of staff and other volunteers. (Of course, anybody who feels sick, shows symptoms of COVID-19, or has been in close contact with another person who has tested positive for the virus should not leave their house to volunteer.)

Volunteers provide essential services and benefits in their communities. That includes everything from delivering meals to those who are homebound to serving as volunteer firefighters and in disaster relief efforts, to cleaning up waterways, green spaces and neighborhoods. Professionals donate their time as well; doctors and nurses volunteer in free clinics and disaster areas and financial professionals lead financial literacy workshops in communities, for example.

The volunteers themselves benefit, too. Studies show that volunteering boosts the volunteer’s mood, self-esteem and even physical fitness. By keeping volunteers in regular contact with others and providing a sense of purpose, volunteering can help combat depression and feelings of isolation. One study found that people who volunteer every month are 7 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy,” while those who volunteer every two to four weeks are 12 percent more likely.

Joining a volunteer organization is an excellent way to become a part of your community, and families can be strengthened by volunteering together. Helping others in the community teaches children important community values and shows them how good it can make them feel to make a difference in someone’s life. Many volunteer activities, such as neighborhood or environmental clean-ups, require physical activity that helps volunteers stay physically fit. Why not get your exercise and help others at the same time?