For Randee Bloom, volunteer service is not just something she does in her spare time. It’s her identity — her calling, her soulwork and where she spends her life. In her presentation to our GaGa Sisterhood, she shared the benefits that volunteers can reap and some tips for finding a truly satisfying volunteer opportunity.
Known as “Grandee” to her three grandchildren, Randee has been an achiever from a young age. After earning her RN and working as a pediatric nurse, she went back to school and earned her MBA. She worked in hospital administration and women’s health. When she asked herself “what’s next,” she decided to study for her Ph.D. and did her dissertation on volunteer service and role identity.
Randee explained that as we move through the different stages of our lives, we have roles that are given to us such as daughter and sister, as well as roles chosen by us such as wife, mother, professional. These roles are ranked and re-ranked throughout our lives based on our values and what’s important to us.
Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart. — Elizabeth Andrew
Personal benefits of volunteer service
We can expand our role identity and enrich our lives by devoting more time to volunteer service. With the right match, the personal benefits can be rewarding in many ways:
- Making new friends who share a similar interest
- Connecting with community
- Learning new skills
- Promoting quality mental health by reducing stress and depression
- Building personal development – confidence, pride, self-identity
- Promoting quality physical health
- Strengthening family bonds if you volunteer together
- Exploring new interests
Tips for finding the right volunteer opportunity
Even if you don’t have a lot of unscheduled time, transportation, the right skills or had a previous volunteer experience that didn’t work out, Randee says you can still find a position that is right for you. Look at what you know already such as organizations you volunteer for now or did in the past. There might be another opportunity in that organization, a higher responsibility, more hands-on work or more behind-the-scenes work.
You can find opportunities by searching for an organization’s mission and answering these questions:
- Do you want to support a disease-based mission?
- Do you want to support a program from your past? Kids’ school, a hospital that helped
- Are you worried about a social issue? Environment, poverty, homelessness, food insecurity
- Do you want to see a local program succeed?
- Do you want to support a specific group of people? Children, elders, disabled, survivors of a disease
- Do you want to use your professional skills or learn something new?
- Do you want to make new friends or have access to special facilities such as a museum, library or theater?
Now you’ve found your volunteer opportunity
When you’ve found an organization and new role, it’s your right to ask:
- Is a “first date” available to try out a position?
- What is the time commitment?
- Is there training offered to set me up for success?
- Who is my direct supervisor?
- Who else is on my team, who will be working together?
- Do you prefer to work alone?
- Do you prefer to work with others on a team?
- Do you work best as a leader, follower, or behind the scenes?
- How much time do you have/want to commit to serving?
As a grandmother, Randee knows that volunteer service can benefit our grandchildren. We can be role models by showing them there is meaningful work at all ages. We can also volunteer with our grandchildren through virtual activities, shared projects in our own cities, and by finding a shared interest.
Randee doesn’t just talk the talk; she walks the walk! Currently, she volunteers with these organizations:
- UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing)
- NIH’s All of Us Research program
- National Bone Marrow Transplant
- AARP’s Volunteer Ambassador
- Founding member of Compassion Contact video calls to Veterans
- Family Legacy Focus with Heirloom
- Volunteer Match: volunteermatch.org
- Create the Good: createthegood.org
- American Red Cross: redcross.org
- Points of Light: pointsoflight.org
- Idealist: idealist.org
- Heirloom Video Books: sendheirloom.com
- NIH All of Us Research Program: joinallofus.org
- United Network for Organ Sharing: unos.org
If you’ve got some extra time, remember that volunteer service is good for your soul, demonstrates your values to your grandchildren, and contributes to the quality of a purposeful life.