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Family Files

Many benefits of volunteering

As part of our community wellness effort, this month we want to talk about the importance of volunteers. What a volunteer gives to an organization in time, expertise and spirit can never be repaid. However, there are also many benefits to the individual that make it one of the most rewarding things one can do. This month, Kristin Puckett, our 4-H program coordinator from Vermilion County, shares about 4-H volunteer opportunities.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world. If you are a 4-H member, alumni, or volunteer, you know these words by heart from reciting the 4-H Pledge.

4-H volunteers empower youth to plan service projects so they can give back to their communities. During National Volunteer Month in April, we make it a priority to acknowledge all of the 4-H volunteers who guide all of the 4-H members in Illinois. In Champaign and Vermilion Counties, over 260 adult volunteers provide opportunities for youth enrolled in the 4-H program to develop leadership, citizenship and life skills.

There is no standard answer for describing a 4-H volunteer because they are all unique. Each volunteer experience is tailored to the adult's interests. 4-H Community Club leaders assist members enrolled in a variety of different projects to plan community service projects and gain leadership experiences through holding officer positions and serving on committees. 4-H SPIN (Special Interest) Club leaders have a specific skill that they share with members enrolled in the club. The club could focus on photography, archery, dog obedience, sewing, robotics, cooking or another skill the volunteer enjoys.

4-H is launching a new initiative this year called "True Leaders in Service" in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month. True Leaders kicked off April 1 and will run through April 29, the National 4-H Day of Service. 4-H clubs can participate in this initiative any time during the month of April. To show impact of service, 4-H clubs can register their service event online.

4-H clubs are encouraged to collaborate with other organizations in the community to create an even bigger impact with their service. These partners might include churches, Kiwanis clubs, Rotary clubs, park and recreation departments or local chambers of commerce.

One of the components of positive youth development is generosity or service to others. Community service helps youth learn to respect and value civic responsibility through real world experiences.

Volunteers become part of a community as they meet new people who have similar interest or passions. They gain confidence while learning new skills or contributing to a cause. Volunteers have fun while getting more back from the experience than what they give. University of Illinois Extension has a variety of avenues for volunteers, not just in 4-H. Some of our other opportunities include the programs Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Money Mentors as well as serving on our council.