Born and raised in Harlem, Carolyn told us, “I have lived here all my life. This is my home. I have never thought about living any place else. I am very passionate about who we are and what we do and how that drives a deep-rooted tradition of volunteerism in Harlem.”
Carolyn has been an EmblemHealth member and a regular at EmblemHealth’s Harlem Neighborhood Care location—which she describes as her lifeline—since 2017. “Neighborhood Care’s programs offer a personalized way to take control and teach me commitment,” she said.
Despite being a volunteer since the 1990s at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Carolyn realized that she still had a lot to learn about what it means to give back to the community.
“There are two main aspects to volunteering,” she explained to us. “Donation of time, and engagement.” For Carolyn, what is truly transformative about volunteering is not only the work that you do, but the relationships you cultivate with fellow volunteers and the community as a whole. “As volunteers, we touch so many lives, in so many ways,” she said.
As we think about how want to spend our time each day, here are a few benefits of volunteering:
- It Reduces Stress – Being able to give and receive in unexpected ways can reduce your stress levels and elevate your mood. As Carolyn put it, “like chicken soup for the soul, volunteering can be a relief from personal challenges.”
- It Sharpens Your Social Skills – Volunteering sharpens your social skills. As you interact with others, you grow social connections, which cultivate a support system. Building a sense of commitment to newfound networks can teach you to communicate and collaborate effectively.
- It Keeps You Active – As scientifically proven, volunteering improves health with the release of good hormones. Many volunteering activities require you to be physically active, and this can open a new door for your health. This form of stimulation boosts resilience and allows us to maintain a healthy level of physical fitness.
- It Helps You Meet New People – Getting involved with an activity helps you build common ground and make new connections. Meeting people with similar visions and values can create friendships that will last a lifetime!
- It Gives You a Sense of Purpose – Volunteering is what you choose to do, and a donation of your time. Volunteering helps us be more empathetic to others and cultivates a sense of purpose and personal accomplishment.
Volunteering is one of the many ways we can connect with one another and help create healthier communities. Looking for a cause that’s close to your heart? Check out New York Cares to discover volunteer opportunities near you.
Do you have a volunteering story to share? Leave a comment below or email email@example.com.