5 ways to pay it forward: The gift of time

Published 8:26 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Volunteering in the community a good way to give back


Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a five-part series about ways to pay it forward in the community during November, the month of giving.


Community members who have some free time to give and who want to make a difference in the community should consider becoming a volunteer for one of several organizations looking for help.

Erin Haag, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County, said there are numerous opportunities to help. People looking to volunteer can contact the United Way, which can connect them with the appropriate people to get started.

Haag said she grew up volunteering as a child because her parents were involved with nonprofits.

She said the experience taught her many valuable things, including speaking skills.

Volunteers can give as little or as much time as they want, whether that be once a month, once a week or even daily, she noted.

She cited a 2018 study by the Benevity organization that analyzed the link between participation in corporate goodness programs and employee retention. She said the study showed that volunteering through the workplace can reduce turnover and lead to a better workplace environment.

The study showed that giving and volunteering through the workplace reduces turnover by an average of 57%, she said. Because of this, there’s a growing trend among Fortune 500 companies to design benefits packages that promote giving and volunteering.

A different study showed that there is a disconnect between middle schoolers and high schoolers with volunteering. Haag said the students recognize that something needs to be done, but were less likely to take it on personally.

She said families need to volunteer with their children from a young age so they see the opportunities and get personally engaged.

“We want to bring that connection back to our families,” Haag said. “We want to create opportunities where it’s not because someone made you.”

Opportunities can range from volunteering at a food shelf or community meal such as Loaves and Fishes at St. Theodore Catholic Church, cleaning out kennels at the Humane Society of Freeborn County, helping take care of an elderly person’s yard or delivering meals to them or helping take seniors in the community to appointments or anything in between.

Sometimes volunteer opportunities come as work needs to be done, such as if a shed needs to be reshingled at an organization, Haag said.

Beth Tuberty, transportation manager for the Ride Services program for Senior Resources of Freeborn County, said Senior Resources has several opportunities for volunteers to help the elderly in the community.

Ride Services helps take people to places such as the grocery store, medical appointments or the airport for a small fee. The drivers are strictly volunteer, though they do get reimbursed for mileage.

Tuberty said over time, volunteers build relationships with their clients and find the task to be rewarding.

She said she had one volunteer recently who told her even if volunteers weren’t reimbursed mileage, they would still help because doing so made them feel so good.

“It’s like a pay-it-forward thing,” she said.

She noted most of her volunteers are between the ages of 70 and 75 and recognize how lucky they are to be able to be in good health. They see people who are less fortunate or who have significant health problems and realize they can help.

Some volunteer for their own health or to help themselves stay active.

She said any time someone can volunteer with the program makes a huge difference.

Mary Daly, the coordinator of the Loaves and Fishes program at St. Theodore Catholic Church, said volunteers are always needed at her program as well, which offers a community meal once a week on Mondays at the church.

Typically, different churches are in charge of a few weeks or a month at a time, but other volunteers are welcome outside of that rotation as well.

“There’s always opportunities if anybody ever wants to come,” she said.

Volunteers can come at 1 p.m. to help cook or can come serve from 4 to 6 p.m.

“There are some wonderful people in our community who have really helped us out,” she said.

The church often receives donations of food leftover from funerals or other events. She said it can take donations of any food prepared in a commercial kitchen. It also receives funding through Semcac each year to help purchase food.

On Monday it had one of the largest crowds she had seen in a while, with about 100 people in attendance, she said.

“It’s been so rewarding, and I really enjoy it,” Daly said.

If people would like to get involved with the Loaves and Fishes program, they can contact Daly at 507-318-7178.

The United Way of Freeborn County can be reached at 507-373-8670, and Senior Resources can be reached at 507-377-7433.