Centre County is home to hundreds of nonprofits that fill the needs of the community in a variety of areas such as health and human services, the arts, education, and more. And while charitable donations drive the work that nonprofits do, volunteers are also an important piece of the puzzle, allowing organizations to have a greater impact on our friends, families, and neighbors.

One community member and Centre County resident who is passionate about volunteerism and its benefits is Ann Echols. Ann is the Executive Director at Volunteer Centre County, which is a website that allows Centre County nonprofits to promote their needs for volunteers and donated goods.

A quick glance at the website reveals that many local nonprofits, including CentrePeace, Housing Transitions, and State College Area Meals on Wheels are currently seeking volunteers, with new opportunities posted regularly.

In addition to operating Volunteer Centre County, Ann volunteers her own time to a number of other local organizations as well. She is involved with Leadership Centre County, the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, and Master Gardeners, to name a few. Her experience with Centre County nonprofits allows her to offer a unique perspective on volunteerism.

“Volunteerism builds confidence, and it makes you feel good about doing good work for others. There’s joy in seeing what other people can benefit from – you feel like you’re making the community a brighter and stronger place,” said Ann.

November is Nonprofit Month and local nonprofits work hard year-round to ensure that community members are taken care of. With the holiday season coming up, nonprofits could use extra help to continue making this impact.  

“People may not feel like they have the time to give back, [especially during the holidays], but when we give back, something can chemically change in us. That little spark, knowing you did something to make someone else’s day a little better, could be a donation to Toys for Tots or stepping in at a fundraiser,” said Ann.

What makes volunteering so special is the impact that volunteers have on the organization and the people it serves. From helping young adults learn valuable skills to becoming part of a new social circle, volunteerism can help us lead happier, more purposeful, and better-connected lives.

“Young people may want to have opportunities where they can show management skills. It can help with getting a job and be a talking point during an interview. There’s [also] a social aspect of volunteerism. If you become a regular volunteer, you’ll get to know the other volunteers and develop meaningful friendships,” said Ann.

Another strong benefit of volunteering is how it affects our health and well-being. According to a review of two decades of research by the Corporation for National and Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Volunteering just a small amount of your time can make a big difference, but don’t take our word for it. Check out Volunteer Centre County and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) to get started or find your next volunteering match.

As we celebrate Nonprofit Month and the approaching holidays, we thank our community’s dedicated volunteers and encourage everyone to find their passion and give volunteering a try. You might just make someone’s day.

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