Throughout our community, countless organizations rely on people to be giving of themselves to help others. The work we do as volunteers can be life-changing for the person that receives the help, but it can be life-changing for us as well. The interesting thing about being a volunteer are the benefits gained, not just by the people receiving the help, but by those giving the help. As you probably already know, the act of giving to someone in need creates a good feeling in us, but there’s a bigger benefit for the person that is giving. This type of activity engages us in our community, exposes us to new meaningful relationships with people in our community, and has a significant impact on our mental and physical health. New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that volunteering actually is good for our heart and can lower the risk of high blood pressure by 40 percent. In their study, they followed more than 1,000 adults between the ages of 51 and 91. “Those who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not. The type of volunteer work appeared to be irrelevant. Rather, it was the amount of time spent doing it that mattered.” The process of how or why that occurs isn’t exactly known, but the data clearly shows that volunteers experience improved mental health, reduced stress, they live longer and feel happier over time. Volunteering can also enable you to acquire new skills, practice a new skill set, network, and meet potential employers. All of this is great news for our heart, mind and body, but to gain optimum benefits, we should volunteer for a cause or an organization we can become passionate about. It makes the work more meaningful and when it’s meaningful, we are more likely to give up our personal time, which ensures we participate and this, in turn, leads to the optimum benefits of volunteer work. So, how does one get started? The first step is to look at your schedule and block out a few hours per month. The next step is to identify the things you feel passionate about, identify organizations in your community that fit your interest, and find the one that fits your schedule. You will find that most organization offer flexibility in terms of time and commitment. Another option is to join a social group/club that help various non-profit organizations, such as the Lions Club, Altrusa, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters… and the list goes on. The opportunities to give of your time are endless. In fact, I know of a local non-profit that is looking for 20 new volunteer drivers. Community Partners in Caring (CPC) is a tax exempt non-profit corporation that I’ve been managing since November. Our mission is to provide volunteer support services that allow our senior population to live independently while maintaining dignity, respect, and quality of life. The hours are flexible: you can donate 2 hours per month or 1 hour per week any day/time of the week. We also provide mileage reimbursement at .25 cents per mile, which will increase to .55 cents per mile on the 1st of June. Contact our Lompoc office at 805-737-1976 for more information. As mentioned earlier, volunteer work can be life-changing. It’s an easy way to help others and it’s a powerful way to help yourself.