A Publication of WTVP describes the act of volunteering (verb) as: to offer (oneself or one’s services) for some undertaking or purpose or to give, bestow or perform voluntarily. It describes a volunteer (noun) as: a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. But in reality, being a volunteer—and the act of volunteering—are much more.

Volunteering can be a way for you to give back to your community or a way to expand your horizons. It could be a mechanism for personal or professional growth. It could be a way to learn lessons that you won’t find anywhere else. Volunteering or being a volunteer can mean so much more than you ever expected.

There are hundreds of organizations within the Peoria Metro region that are in need of volunteers. Depending on the organization, volunteers may be needed on a daily basis for everything from event planning to fundraising, or the needs could be as simple as someone to answer the phones and help out around the office.

When getting involved in the community, it is important to find an organization that you are passionate about. If you genuinely care about the mission of the organization, want to see it succeed, and are excited about the work you are doing, there is greater chance for reward. There is no better feeling than the reward of knowing you made a difference.

Volunteering is a lot like “paying it forward.” But it is not just good for the soul; there is a lot to be learned from giving back. You might just discover a new talent that you are really good at or develop a new skill that can help you in your current career. If your efforts include planning and implementing a major fundraising event, you may learn how to better set and develop personal goals. Managing and training volunteers may improve your supervisory skills.

If you are thinking of a career change, volunteering is a great way to explore new fields. If you have a passion for something, but your career is in a totally unrelated field, consider volunteering where your interest lies, and you may find the inspiration you’ve been searching for. Finding new interests and hobbies through volunteering can be fun and energizing, too. That energy and sense of accomplishment can carry over to the work environment, making you more productive and confident in your daily tasks. A volunteer experience can lead you to things in which you never even thought you had an interest.

Volunteering is also a wonderful networking opportunity and a great way to meet new people. Not only can you develop lasting personal and professional relationships, but you can learn about people from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

By getting involved, you prove that you have commitment, dedication and an interest in making your community a better place to live and work. Hopefully, your efforts will encourage others to get involved as well. Volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely. Unlike many things in life, there is choice involved in volunteering. Make that choice to help out and make a difference. You can’t help but feel just a little more positive about life. iBi

The Young Professionals Organization of Greater Peoria is a program of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.