Career Military Life PCS Spouse 101

Volunteering – Why should YOU do it?

Volunteering and military spouses tend to go hand in hand. Most milspouses volunteer for multiple organizations, some at the same time, throughout their tenure. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to help out in our communities without the full commitment of a job, or instead of a job. It is important for filling in gaps on a resume, it helps us meet people when we move, and it gives us a sense of satisfaction, of giving back. The percentage of civilians who volunteer is about 27% compared to a whopping 70% of military spouses who volunteer. Why is the percentage of volunteers so high among the military spouse community?

Why do military spouses volunteer?

Sherri Davenport, Army spouse for 24 years, has volunteered throughout her husband’s career, in a myriad of places. Sherri explains why she volunteers, “As a military kid, I grew up with the sense of community wherever you go. I think I was an extension of that, and seeing my mom volunteer, I was motivated to be part of something bigger than myself.” Anyone who had the honor of volunteering with Sherri, can say that she gives to the community wholeheartedly.

A new Army spouse, Angela Smith, volunteered in her local church before marrying her husband and moving across the country. When she arrived in Fort Huachuca, she began volunteering with the Community Spouses’ Club because she thought her time would be better spent volunteering in something she genuinely enjoyed.

I volunteer to meet people, plain and simple. Each time I arrive at a new duty station, I find some way to volunteer. Within a few months, I know 75% of the population on the installation, and I love it! I really enjoy helping out organizations on the installation and helping the families.

Did you know volunteer work is appropriate to put on your resume? “Volunteering is also a terrific way to gain new skills, or showcase those you already have – it has led to several paying job opportunities for me, and allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom when my kids were small without leaving a gap in my resume,” Sherri explains.


Where do military spouses volunteer?

Military spouses volunteer both on and off the installation. The most common volunteer spot would be something regarding the Family Readiness Groups. The initial tie between our spouse’s job and the families of coworkers. Beginning in college, Sherri volunteered for Tau Beta Sigma, a national honorary for college bands. Over the course of her military spouse career, Sherri has volunteered for Family Readiness Groups, Army Community Service, Boy Scouts, and many others.

If you are looking for volunteer opportunities on an army installation, try www.myarmyonesource.com, on this website you can register and apply to be a volunteer at all the organizations who use volunteers. Then you can easily track your hours with each organization and overall. Most installations will have a Volunteer Coordinator (check with Army Community Service, Fleet & Family Services, or Airmen & Family Readiness) and they will send out emails when volunteers are needed for specific events.

Another great way to find volunteer opportunities is through Volunteer Match. Using volunteer match, you can find opportunities to volunteer either in person or virtually. You can search for a specific cause, or by the type of work you’d like to do. Organizations like The Community Corps, presented by Lumity in Chicago, IL use Volunteer Match to reach out to volunteers interested in both local and virtual volunteer opportunities. Maggie Christ, Marketing and PR Coordinator for Lumity, uses Volunteer Match to find people who want to help, but who want to feel productive doing so. “Skills based volunteering lets you do what you’re already good at to give back to your community. If you’re good at technology, marketing, or finance, you can use those talents and rather than stacking canned food or passing out flyers.” 

Advice for the next generation of volunteers?

Angela’s advice for newer military spouses to encourage them is, “Volunteering is one of the easiest ways to get involved and be a part of a group of like-minded individuals who care about the community.”

My advice: Try it! What can it hurt? Worst case scenario, you don’t like the volunteer work. Best case, you meet tons of awesome people, truly feel like you are giving back to the community, and a few years down the road, it may even help you land a job!

“The constant changes of military life are hard, volunteering is a great way to ‘plug-in’ with like-minded people as soon as you arrive at a new duty station. It will help you feel more confident too, hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are helping others!” Sherri explains. In fact, Sherri was the first person who dragged me out of my stairwell apartment in Germany in 2008 and “forced” me to get involved. I’m oh-so-glad she did! 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/supportunitedway/6962044951/”>United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

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