Catherine Rea Dunning

Catherine Rea Dunning

The holiday season tends to bring the best out of people. Many volunteer at soup kitchens, donate gifts to the less fortunate or find other ways to give back during the season.

And that’s wonderful, but the fact is, volunteers are needed year-round. Perhaps the biggest reason people are unable to volunteer is the time commitment. Between toting the kids around to soccer games, juggling a career and your own social commitments, it can be hard to carve out the time needed to make a difference in others’ lives.

But what you may not realize is there are a lot of ways to give back that can be easily incorporated in your day-to-day schedule, some of which you might already be doing.

Volunteering means donating your time or abilities to others free of charge. It is about improving your community, which can be done on a large scale, like helping to build low-income housing or organizing a food drive, to small scale, like chaperoning your child’s class field trip.

While that may sound a little self-serving, think beyond the immediate action. Coaching a little-league game, driving a carpool or volunteering to be a teacher’s aide can make a big difference. It could provide a child the opportunity to receive the attention he or she needs to succeed in class, or allow someone to participate in an activity they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

In the business world, participating in networking groups may seem like your professional obligation, but the events and meetings are intended to strengthen your industry and help educate those struggling with or new to their careers. More often than not, dues and funds raised go towards scholarships. And your involvement is considered volunteering.

Next time you are at a community event, see what you can do to make a difference. Hand out pamphlets, plan a neighborhood cleanup or, in spirit of the holidays, help out at a food kitchen throughout the state.

To help encourage more people to volunteer in their communities, the Arizona Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism (AGCSV) and 2-1-1 Arizona are promoting the Arizona Centennial Challenge. Gov. Jan Brewer launched the challenge to commemorate our state’s centennial with the hope that each Arizonan will log 100 volunteer hours throughout the year. There is still plenty of time to step up to the challenge.

If you need help coming up with ways to give back, has a database of organizations looking to recruit volunteers and allows you to search opportunities based on your interests or abilities. Here, you can pledge to take the Arizona Centennial Volunteer Challenge and keep track of your efforts by logging hours.

So what are you waiting for?


• Catherine Rea Dunning is chief executive officer of Community Information and Referral Services/211 Arizona.

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