The Ease and Value of Community Service

Community service is a great thing, and a wonderful way to create positive change within your locale, wherever it may be. There are a huge variety of ways to get involved that require very little, if any, effort on your part to participate.

Volunteers packing gift bags for "Feed My Starving Children"
Fellow volunteers and I pack dehydrated meals for the nonprofit “Feed My Starving Children”

I currently volunteer at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that packs dehydrated meals for developing countries (191 million meals in Fiscal Year 2013, in fact!). We have volunteer jobs at our permanent sites that are as simple as putting “best before” labels on the bags that will later house the packed meals. Of course, we have more involved jobs, like working in our warehouse and hauling around 30-50 pound boxes for a couple of hours, but we provide this variety of jobs specifically to cater to a range of volunteer interests, and many organizations are no different. is an organization dedicated to sending care packages to troops overseas, and all you have to do to get involved is build a package to be sent — as a matter of fact, you get to search their lists to find which specific soldiers to whom you would like to send the package, and you get a customized list of items they need.

Cheerful Givers simply asks that you pick up a few items for less than $10 and drop them off at your local food shelf or shelter and ask that they be donated to a child as a birthday present. Then you register through their website, and bam – you’re a cheerful giver!

If none of those appeal to you, or because of time and financial constraints you need a way to volunteer from home, Oprah has assembled a list of 6 ways to make a difference — Goodsearch and A Kind Voice are my personal favorites.

Additionally, if you’re willing to make the time or financial sacrifice but just don’t know where to start, Volunteer Match will set you up with an organization tailored to your requests.

So why go through the trouble of volunteering? There are tangible benefits to volunteering your time, especially if you do so for a lengthy period.

If you’re extremely motivated to volunteer, there are very few résumé boosters better than the Peace Corps — this article from the Huffington Post notes that serving in the Peace Corps, at its very least, connects you with a network of over 200,000 other volunteers, and anyone with any interest in getting a job knows that networking is one of the most important parts of that process.

Additionally, Peace Corps volunteers have already demonstrated to potential employers an extreme willingness to go out of their comfort zones for the sake of their “job,” and that flexibility will look awfully good compared to other candidates who may have the degrees but no experience.

If you’re motivated to volunteer, but don’t want to devote two-and-a-half years of your life out of country to do it, consider finding a charity in your municipality that offers volunteer opportunities. While you do so, ask for documentation to record your hours; no one will look at you crossly for it, and doing so may make you eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, another huge résumé booster.

All in all, volunteering can make a huge difference in your future, whether through the impact the volunteer work has on you on a personal level, or whether it enhances your professional options when looking for a job. In any case, get involved!

Fellow Penn Staters—how have you been getting involved in your local communities?