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Busted: Common volunteering myths disproved

(BPT) - With busy work schedules and hectic family lives, many people believe they don’t have the necessary time, energy or skills to volunteer. Unfortunately, these myths may deter many people who would make capable and helpful volunteers. For many Americans, volunteer work constitutes small, but empowering acts of service.

Volunteering does not typically take a lot of time or energy and only requires the ability to follow directions, not a special set of skills. The key to busting volunteering myths lies in finding activities that fit into your schedule and match your abilities.

Myth 1: Volunteering takes too much time.

Reality: It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference. Volunteering just a couple of hours a year or 15 minutes a week can actually make a large difference because what is done matters more than how long it took. Whether you help build a house once on a weekend or tutor every week, you still make an impact.

Myth 2: Volunteering uses a lot of energy.

Reality: Some volunteer activities require a lot of energy, but many do not. Instead of signing up for manual labor, consider opportunities that might align with your day’s schedule like grocery shopping for an injured neighbor while picking up your own groceries or chatting with a resident at a nursing home.

Myth 3: Volunteering requires a special skill set.

Reality: If you have a special skill set, volunteering is a great way to use it to help others. If you don’t, fear not! Most volunteers only need to follow directions, talk to other people and have fun. Think about helping organize donations at a food pantry.

Just ask Debbie McGrady, a 58 year-old mother of two who disproves all three of these volunteering myths. Even though she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the lining of the joints, causing soreness, swelling and stiffness – she continues to be an active member in her community by giving back and participating in volunteer work, which she finds to be both feasible and worthwhile.

Specifically, McGrady drives local senior citizens to their doctor’s appointments and on other errands, turning a mundane task into a time to build meaningful relationships. “I used to think I was too tired, too busy, and not talented enough to volunteer. However, I discovered the smallest actions can make a world of difference for somebody and make me feel better too,” says McGrady. “Volunteering is such a gratifying experience and helps me focus on others as opposed to my disease.”

McGrady is involved in Hand in Hand for RA, a national awareness campaign that encourages people with RA to learn about the benefits of volunteering and share their own inspirational stories.

So, how can you get involved in your own community? The answer may be simpler than you think. Once you identify the amount of time and energy you have available, as well as the activities that interest you, all that’s left to do is find your match and commit by speaking with a nonprofit organization, using an online search engine or even asking a friend for advice.

Now that you’re equipped with myth-busting facts and tips, it’s time to make a difference and lend a helping hand. For more information on how McGrady and other RA patients get involved visit www.handinhandforRA.com.

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