When Volunteering Turns into Friendships
Nonprofits depend on the giving nature of volunteers, but volunteers also gain satisfaction and benefits from giving back to their community. Volunteers often report the benefits of personal growth, enrichment, learning, plus the opportunity to build friendships.
Dani and Mark Bigelbach and Gary Schneider volunteer together every Tuesday morning as food distribution assistants, helping seniors who visit the Maplewood warehouse to pick up a Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) box packed with shelf-stable, wholesome foods.
Combined, these Tuesday morning volunteers have generously given more than 400 hours of time since they began volunteering less than a year ago. With so many hours shared, they’ve become close friends. “It’s become a part of our lives,” said Dani.
“We’re starting to have a relationship outside of here. We’ve even gone out for happy hour,” said Mark.
The three volunteers have also developed meaningful relationships with the seniors and families they serve, many of whom make sure to visit Second Harvest Heartland on a Tuesday when they know this team will be volunteering.
“They know us. They feel like they can ask for what they need,” said Dani.
For one grandmother, being able to ask for the food she needed meant picking up a birthday treat for her grandson that she couldn’t have afforded otherwise.
“When I gave her the treat, her eyes just lit up,” said Gary.
For all three, that’s the most important part. “Clients leave happy, and we leave fulfilled,” said Dani.