How To Volunteer During a Pandemic
by Ivy Oakes
Prior to the pandemic, I planned volunteer days for the Populum team where we stuffed backpacks at CASA or helped at a food bank and clothing drive at a local mission. When our world was turned upside down by COVID-19, I was at a loss of how we would continue to support our local community. I wanted us to continue our efforts to give back, but also wanted to keep our team and others safe. How did we do that? I had to get creative!
Our New Approach To Volunteering
Since March, I’ve had to rethink our volunteer efforts. With the safety of our team as the number one priority, I worked to find ways that we could give back, while ensuring we were socially distant from one another or we were volunteering virtually.
While the weather was nice, I organized outdoor, socially-distant volunteer days, like the day we beautified a local park. But as the weather has turned colder, I wanted to find a way to engage with our local community in a remote way.
I connected with Katie Fourney of Share Omaha, an organization that helps connect volunteers with local nonprofits. She led me to find the Paralyzed Veterans of America - Great Plains Chapter. I was excited to find this organization because some of my favorite Populum customers are veterans.
How Populum Gives Back This Holiday Season
First and foremost, on behalf of the staff at Populum, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our veterans for their heroic service to our country. The dedication and service from these veterans should be celebrated every day of the year.
I’d also like to share a little about Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The organization was originally founded by a group of service members who came home from World War II with spinal cord injuries. They returned to a grateful nation, but also to a world with few solutions to the major challenges they faced.
These wounded heroes made a decision not just to live, but to live with dignity as contributors to society. They created PVA, an organization dedicated to serving veterans—and to medical research, advocacy and civil rights for all people with disabilities. Since 1946, PVA has been on a mission to change lives and build brighter futures for our seriously injured heroes.
This holiday season, our team is devoting time (from their own homes) to send simple acts of kindness to these brave men and women. We mailed handwritten cards, stickers and drawings (courtesy of team members’ kids). I thought this would be a good way to connect with others and spread kindness.
Emily Rockwell, Populum’s Director of Sales, used the opportunity to educate her sons about veterans.
"My kids were learning about Veterans Day in school and had worked on writing a class letter to local veterans here in Arizona,” said Rockwell. “This volunteer activity was meaningful for them as they found that there are veterans all over the US. They were thrilled to thank more service members who have dedicated their lives to our country by drawing pictures and sharing their hobbies. We're looking forward to corresponding more!"
Why Giving Back Is Good For You
At Populum, we believe that staying active in the community is important to build strength as a team and to build a bond as an organization with our community. We know that scientists have proven that volunteering is good for your health, so why not do what is good for us!
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many health benefits to volunteering, including:
- Volunteering decreases the risk of depression.
- Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
- Volunteering helps people stay physically and mentally active.
- Volunteering may reduce stress levels.
- Volunteering may help you live longer.
- Volunteering helps you meet others and develop new relationships.
Jamil Zaki’s, A psychologist and Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab, researches how volunteering and empathy naturally go hand in hand, and result in happier individuals and stronger communities.
Zaki said, “Empathy is a skill, and volunteering can teach it. Volunteering pushes us to be kind and empathetic.”
For more from Zaki, please check out the episode from the Ten-Percent Happier podcast or read his book, The War For Kindness: Building Empathy In A Fractured World.
Empathy is the skill that helps us relate to others, work together, and form healthy bonds which are the cornerstone of a healthy society. It involves imagining the world from another person’s perspective and feeling their emotional experience.
Volunteering helps our mental health and overall well-being—something all Populum employees' believe.
Giving Tuesday And Beyond
For those who are feeling inspired to give back this holiday season, take some time on December 1st or Giving Tuesday. You may have seen #GivingTuesday trending on Twitter, and wondered what it was. Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It is a movement to celebrate and support our local nonprofit partners.
An easy way to support your favorite nonprofits on Giving Tuesday is to donate. But, there are many, many other ways to support remotely if you can’t donate! You can:
- Donate your skills to a cause that matters to you
- Host a volunteer activity at your work, benefiting a nonprofit, for staff and customers
- Encourage your company to announce a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) plan for 2021
- Write notes of encouragement to students, seniors and essential workers
- Deliver treats or meals to clients, neighbors, essential workers and those in need
- Get creative! Any act of good moves us all toward a better future
For our Omaha community, be sure to check out ShareOmaha.org for more ways you can give back this holiday season.
Until next time! Be kind, think kind, stay kind.