At the end of every year, we turn the page to move ahead into the next year. Like the old saying goes, “out with the old, in with the new,” we reflect on our past and plan for our future. With good intentions, we look ahead with a positive forecast bound by our goals and resolutions. Personal growth in the form of fitness, money, self-help, or education is usually at the top of the list. Whatever our past struggles, we step forward armed with new ways to better ourselves in the new year. According to studies done by the Mayo Clinic, giving of our time through volunteerism has an immeasurable effect on our wellbeing.
Volunteerism is on the rise as individuals look for ways to enrich their lives and progress forward on their path. There are endless opportunities to volunteer, so it is important to find a non-profit organization that speaks to you and aligns with your interests. Whether you want to be hands-on as part of an emergency response team, love on animals up for adoption, or work behind the scenes stuffing envelopes, charitable organizations have a role for anyone willing to help positively impact the lives of others.
In helping others, we help ourselves. Results from a study called Doing Good is Good for You in partnership with United Healthcare and VolunteerMatch show many “feel good” reasons we should volunteer.
“The results of this study affirm that volunteering is a relationship that brings people together and can profoundly change the way we think about ourselves and others,” said Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch, the largest online volunteer engagement network which serves over 113,000 participating nonprofits, 150 network partners and 13 million annual visitors.
The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau in Western North Carolina is no exception when it comes to an abundance of non-profit organizations looking for volunteers. The list is too long to name them all, but NC Living has compiled a select list of local organizations that welcome volunteers. Others can be found online by searching “non-profit organizations in your area” or by visiting volunteermatch.org or greatnonprofits.org. Giving just an hour, a week, or a few hours a month can make a tremendous difference in others’ lives, and yours too. As the Universal Law of Gratitude says, the more you give, the more you will receive.
/ Food Pantry of Highlands and Cashiers: These two non-profits provide nutritious foods to hundreds of individuals and families living at or below the national poverty level. Since both towns are seasonal communities, work becomes scarce in the winter months and families face the difficult challenge of putting food on their tables. These pantries are busy stores where community members go weekly to receive fresh foods, staples, and canned goods. Volunteers are needed for as little as one day a month to operate the pantries. Learn more at highlandsmethodist.org and fishesandloavescashiers.org.
/ Literacy Council of Cashiers and the Highlands Literacy Council: Both non-profit organizations share the goal of helping people to read and become educated. Some 30% of county residents cannot read. Teaching children, adults, and families to become literate will help them find employment (or a better job), gain confidence, vote, learn, and feel more connected to their community. Anyone who loves to read or teach will make a great volunteer. Learn more at cashiersliteracycouncil.org or highlandsliteracy.com.
/ Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western NC: This organization aims to enrich children’s lives through one-on-one mentoring programs. With inspiration and encouragement, children are led to find positive and productive paths. Volunteers become “Bigs” for “Littles,” creating relationships that spur growth. Learn more at bbbswnc.org.
/ Team Rubicon: Dedicated to disaster response and relief, this Los Angeles-based nonprofit’s mission is to coordinate teams of military veterans and first responders to work in service together helping communities affected by natural disasters. Chapters are created in locations around the world that can be in close proximity to the areas served. A local Highlands chapter is currently on task to help those devastated by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida by removing debris and rebuilding homes.
/ Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust: Protectors of nature since 1883, HCLT essentially guards our natural resources, the air we breathe, our lakes, streams, mountains, flora and fauna. If you enjoy nature and want to preserve it for generations to come, this might be the right place for you. Learn more at hicashlt.org.
/ The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society: This no-kill not-for-profit shelter does so much to help care for our furry friends. Volunteers walk, socialize and play with these sheltered animals making them better future pets and more adoptable. Fostering in your own home is another way to serve the shelter. For animal lovers, this is a heart-warming volunteer experience. Learn more at chhumanesociety.org.
/ Rotary Club: A civically minded organization where driven citizens and local leaders come together to do good for their community. Advocating “service above self,” Rotarians meet weekly to share ideas, enjoy fellowship, and develop projects that serve their area. Learn more at highlandsrotary.org and cashiersrotary.org.
/ REACH: With a mission to eradicate domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault crimes in both Macon and Jackson Counties, this bilingual nonprofit works to support their mission through prevention, intervention, counseling, and education. There are many volunteer opportunities at REACH, from working directly with the abused or in the roles of fundraising, fielding Hotline calls, court advocacy, event marketing, and shelter assistance. Learn more at reachofmaconcounty.org.