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Volunteering Could be the Secret to Happiness: How You Can Get Involved, Go Riverwalk Magazine, June 2014

What if there was a study dedicated to unearthing the secrets to a happy life?  Researchers analyzed data from 40 published papers and found evidence that volunteering, in fact, boosts happiness.  Volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.  More importantly, volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than non-volunteers. It’s not that helpful people tend to be healthier and happier, but instead studies show that helping others itself causes happiness.

Altogether, 64.5 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.9 billion hours last year.  However, Florida ranks 48th among the 50 states & Washington, D.C. in the amount of residents who volunteer; only 21% of Florida’s population gives their time in comparison to 44% of Utah’s population.  States that lag behind us are Nevada, New York & Louisiana.  And while volunteering may be second nation to some, here’s how to get involved and reap the benefits of volunteering.

The Young Pro:
There are 330,000 young professionals (ages 20-34) in Broward and many nonprofits are starting young professional (YP) groups to attract this demographic.  While most YP groups support specific causes, Emerge Broward, a program of the Leadership Broward Foundation, is a great introduction to volunteering in Fort Lauderdale.  With over 300 members, they partner with numerous charities to do “done-in-a-day” projects, which gives members a good taste of many of the nonprofit organizations in the community.

If a young professional is looking for a group that supports a specific cause, then they can always look to the Ghost Light Society, United Way’s Young Leaders, PetSet, Young Professionals of Covenant House, Urban League’s Young Professional Network, Next Generation: HANDY, and Generation Dream to name a few.

The Professional:
LinkedIn recently launched Volunteer LinkedIn with the mindset that volunteering is good for your career and your community, but more importantly, how using your skills can make a positive impact.  This initiative focuses on skilled-based volunteering, which is when company employees and/or individuals offer nonprofits their personal talents or professional competences to help organizations meet their demands.  Professionals with a LinkedIn profile can apply for any volunteer position and nonprofits can determine if they are the right fit.  Other similar sites to consider are Catchafire and HandsOnBroward.

The Baby Boomer/Retiree:
Re-engage for Good is a multi-year initiative of the Community Foundation of Broward.  The purpose is to engage retired and soon-to-be retired baby boomers to use their time, talent, and years of experience to improve our community.  The Foundation works with various nonprofits that are looking for the skills and wisdom of retired professionals and/or seniors.  They partner with programs like the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Connect, Impact Broward’s Encore Connect and RSVP program, and HandsOn Broward’s Corporate Volunteer Council.  With all of the experience retirees can bring to the table, nonprofits can really benefit from their service and expertise.

In a county that has over 5,000 charities, there are plenty of organizations looking for your help. Happiness is calling.  Consider getting involved.
Check out the article in Go Riverwalk Magazine, page 44/45.


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