by Diana Sim, Executive Director, Volunteer Lethbridge
Elaine, age 64, had never volunteered before. Instead of asking volunteers about their skills and qualifications, I always ask, “What would you like to do?” She answered that she quite enjoyed cleaning. I suggested she contact two agencies who were looking for cleaning help, but I could tell she was hesitant. So I gently asked if she might like to help out at the Volunteer Lethbridge offices with our cleaning. She agreed. She would show up after work at 8am (she worked a night shift) and we kept her busy dusting shelves and tidying.
Over time, I could see her responsibilities at VL building her level of confidence. Eventually, she started volunteering at other events and keeping busy around the community.
One day, she told me she’d woken up that morning and almost decided not to come in to the office. “I just had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to stay in bed,” she said. “But then I asked myself, what am I thinking?! Volunteer Lethbridge is my happy place! So I got right up and came in to clean.”
Later on, Elaine told me about witnessing a car accident in front of her house. It was traumatic for her – but her first reaction was to run inside her home for a small glass angel she had as an ornament, and give it to the woman involved in the accident.
Volunteering is often a paradigm-shifter–it can affect a person’s mental health. Elaine’s story shows the shift in action. We see the positive impact of volunteering: Through helping others, we often help ourselves.