Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that I first reached out to the Fit and Food Connection to volunteer. While looking ...

How Volunteering Has Changed My Life

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that I first reached out to the Fit and Food Connection to volunteer.

While looking for job opportunities - and finding that I wasn't nearly ready to change positions - I stumbled across a volunteer position with the Fit and Food Connection, and the rest is history. Now, I help to run the organization's social media and website teams, I serve on the Board, and I teach a yoga class for those in need.

Needless to say, spending this much time with an organization has really changed my life, and here's how:

1. I have learned more through experience than I did in school.

Real world knowledge is so much more valuable than an outdated text book. Maybe that's not true in all fields, but in something like marketing, where the digital landscape changes every day, being able to try your best firsthand with a real company is worth a thousand textbooks.

The Fit and Food Connection valued my insights and gave me the freedom of trial and error. I was able to gain real world knowledge in social media, content marketing, the Wordpress CMS, Google Analytics, and Google AdWords - experience that I never would have gotten sitting in my cubicle at Spectrum Reach. And most importantly, experience that led me to be hired for my dream job at Paradigm New Media group over my competition.

2. I have met amazing people, who I now cannot imagine my life without.

The Fit and Food Connection is almost entirely volunteer run. It is truly amazing what a group of passionate people can achieve in their non-existent free time. Although the volunteers come and go, there is a good group of us who have been in it for the long haul. I am always blown away with what these people are accomplishing when we get together.

And I can't make a post about volunteering without talking about the co-founders of the Fit and Food Connection, Joy and Gabi. They have been so kind and supportive of me in everything that I have done for the past year. They are always grateful for the work all of the volunteers do. They would do anything for us in return if they could. They will be lifelong friends of mine.

3. I finally understand the definition of busy.

Before volunteering with the Fit and Food Connection, my definition of "busy" was trying to finish 4 seasons of a show in one week. I was mostly just wasting time. Now, I understand what being truly busy is. Working a full time job, trying to keep a social life with Jim, attending several nonprofit meetings per week after work, teaching a yoga class, and doing volunteer website or social media work in my free time.

My calendar books weeks in advance, and there is never such a thing as a free weekend. I sometimes feel bad for not seeing my family and friends as often as I would like. But at least everyone who I know understands my crazy schedule and has an equally chaotic life of their own. (And if you don't then feel free to guilt me into seeing you, just as long as you can plan it in advance.)

4. I have found the joy of selflessly giving.

Volunteering with the Fit and Food Connection started out as a selfish thing, I will admit. Most volunteering does, I have found. You are willing to give your time and talents, and in return you expect to get something out of it. For me, it was personal and professional development, for some it is the social atmosphere, for others it is about filling community service hours.

However, in my time with this organization, I have taken on more and more roles because I believe in the people who we serve. I believe that they deserve the best, healthiest lives they can have. Teaching a yoga class has no direct benefit to me.

Even if I decided to become a professional yoga teacher in the future, this class would not have trained me. This class is simply about sharing my passion with people who also enjoy it. People who may have never experienced yoga without me. And even though I'm not "getting anything" out of my yoga class, it has been one of the most fulfilling volunteer experiences I have had.

Go For It

That one email that I sent to Joy one year ago has completely changed my life. If I hadn't reached out to the Fit and Food Connection, I would not be sitting where I am today. If you are considering volunteering with any organization, the best advice that I can give is to just go for it! The worst thing that can happen is you deciding that volunteering is not for you. And then, guess what? You can just quit! Simple as that.

If you aren't ready to volunteer, you can still support amazing local organizations by donating or attending nonprofit events. I know a great organization that you can give to. ;)

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