The most recent issue of Health After 50, a publication of Scientific American, features an article on the health benefits of volunteer work.
“Serving others in need offers fulfillment and joy as well as many health benefits,” the report points out. “Older adults in particular who volunteer report increased psychological well-being and feel a sense of purpose in their lives. It’s a win-win situation.”
In addition, older volunteers live longer and experience fewer disabilities than non-volunteers.
Asked about the findings, Laura Moore, president of East Lincoln Christian Ministry in Denver said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all. We have a few hundred volunteers working with our ministry, and there is a clear sense of purpose and well-being amongst all of them.
“Many of our volunteers are retired professionals who choose to share their skills in ways that benefit the ministry and our clients.”
ELCM, founded in 1983, has become an indispensable agency in the greater East Lincoln community, serving more than a thousand households – individuals and families. Assistance includes food, clothing, help in crisis situations and even free tax preparation for qualified individuals.
Approximately 50 families each week receive food assistance, and a mobile food pantry is held every three months, serving an additional 200 or more families.
A home meals program ensures delivery of a hot meal to 65 elderly shut-ins five days a week, along with a safety and wellness check. Last year alone, more than 15,000 were delivered by 200 volunteer drivers.
Backpacks amply stocked with school supplies, as well as back-to-school clothing, go out to almost 300 children at the beginning of each school year; ‘angel gifts’ are given to children and the elderly at Christmas.
Easter baskets are offered to children 10 and younger, and special food for preparation of holiday meals is provided at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Although a substantial quantity of food is donated by local supermarkets, including Food Lion and Walmart, much more must be purchased at a substantial discount from Second Harvest/Feeding America.
The local community is very generous with donations of used clothing and household goods, all of which are sorted, inspected, tagged and put on sale at the main facility – on Catawba Burris Road across from Rock Springs Campground – as well as at the furniture annex just off of Campground Road near Stacy’s Restaurant.
“We are truly blessed to be the recipients of donations from the community, as that supports our annual budget,” Laura Moore said, “and we make effective use of our many volunteers.
“Because no one is paid, we are entirely dependent on the thousands of volunteer hours committed to this worthy cause, and the friendship and camaraderie amongst our volunteers adds to the atmosphere.
“That having been said, it’s important to note that we are frequently short-handed, with more work than can be readily accomplished, so we are constantly seeking more help in carrying out our mission to support the community.”
Those who might like to become involved have a wide variety of tasks to choose from, and the amount of time one commits is quite flexible, from a few hours a week to a few days a month.
Jobs include sorting, inspecting, sizing and tagging clothing for sale, as well as arranging and hanging the clothing on racks in The Closet. Cashiers are also useful in the sales area.
For food distribution, volunteers may help in the food pantry, pick up donated food or prepare groceries for distribution. Additional drivers for home meals delivery are always welcome, with commitments of as little as one day a month.
At the furniture annex, workers are needed to prepare donations of household goods, large and small, including electronics, for display on the sales floor.
ELCM is open four days a week from 9 a.m. to noon; and volunteers are quite flexible in the days and hours they may choose to work.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Kathy Bilodeau, who coordinates the operation of The Closet where all the clothing is displayed for sale, “but we are a fun group of folks. And I really like the idea that we are improving our mental and physical states as well.”
Moore points out that individuals from local churches and other organizations, such as Scouting and school groups, occasionally offer their services for a limited time.
“Nevertheless, we always welcome new volunteers,” she said. “No matter your interest or ability, you will find something to do here that will be rewarding and you’ll be working with a truly dedicated group of individuals in service to the community.
“Come check us out. We’d love to meet you and have you join our family,” Bilodeau said.
Bruce Dunbridge is a freelance writer. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For information or to discuss volunteer opportunities, contact Kathy Bilodeau at 704-483-4415, or ELCM2@att.net.