Five Reasons to Volunteer

Hi Friends!

Today I wanted to have a little chat with you about something I feel is super important- volunteering.

When was the last time you volunteered? When was the last time you took some time out of your day to help someone else? To really stop and think about just how lucky you are to have everything that you do?

Thanks to my parents, I started volunteering at a very young age. Every Christmas, my mom would bundle my sister and I up to go ring the bell for The Salvation Army. And every year we would adopt a family to buy Christmas presents for through the red bag program. On the day they were due, we would go help sort them and load them into semi-trucks to be delivered. I’ll never forget the first time we showed up to help sort and I saw 6 semi-trucks lined up in the street. I remember thinking that there couldn’t possibly be that many people that needed help over the holidays.

As I got older, I continued to volunteer at festivals, events and soup kitchens. In high school, I did all sorts of volunteer work for National Honor Society. I won’t say I enjoyed every single minute. Most high schoolers don’t enjoy getting up early on Saturday morning to go pick up trash…but am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Am I glad I formed a group of friends who knew the importance of volunteering and did it with me? For sure.

In college I was part of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. After we graduated from college, the hubby and I spent several years volunteering weekly at a local animal shelter.

When I went back to school, I started volunteering at places that were more specifically geared towards my interest in food and nutrition. I volunteered at a WIC clinic and I spent time at LifeCare Alliance working with their Senior Farmer’s Market and Meals on Wheels programs. I volunteer with Local Matters and will soon begin teaching Cooking Matters classes. I also volunteer weekly at a choice food pantry.

Although it may seem like it so far, this post is not about me touting what an awesome person I am, or searching for compliments. I just wanted to show you that it’s an important part of my life, and that it can be done, even if you have a busy schedule like I do.  The purpose of this post is to encourage each and every one of you to spend some time volunteering this year.

And here’s why:

Five Reasons to Volunteer

  1. It shows you care about others.
    When you’re applying for college or for a job, people are going to look to see whether you give back to your community. It shows that you understand there are people out there that need your help, and more importantly than just understanding, it shows that you’re willing to get out there and do something about it- to try to make a difference in someone’s life.
  2. There’s a huge need.
    There are SO MANY amazing organizations out there that are working tirelessly to help those in need. But they can’t do it without the help of volunteers. The food pantry I volunteer at is open 3 days a week for 8 hours each day. It takes at least 20 volunteers each day in order for them to be able to stay open for the full amount of time, have things run smoothly and even come close to meeting the demand of the community. That’s 60 volunteers a week that are needed for just one of the many volunteer opportunities in Columbus.
  3. You can do what you love while helping others.
    There are literally thousands of different ways you can volunteer. If you’re not lucky enough to work at a job that embodies your true passions, volunteering is the perfect chance to do what you love for the benefit of others! If you like kids, become a Big Brother/Big Sister or a Court Appointed Service Advocate. If you like the elderly, volunteer to help senior citizens do their grocery shopping or go spend some time at a retirement home. If you like to build things, help build a house with Habitat for Humanity…. If you’re not a people person, find an agency that needs help with data entry or stuffing envelopes. And remember that sometimes the tasks that seem the most mundane are the most important. I’ve spent many hours filing papers or pulling charts, not because I especially love filing, but because I love the organizations and the work that they’re doing and I know that sometimes, those areas are the ones where they need the most help, in order for them to keep helping people. Think about where you passions lie, and then find an organization that needs your time and assistance.
  4. Someone will always be grateful for your time.
    There’s no amount of time too small when it comes to volunteering. If you only have 2 hours a month, they’ll take it. If you can only commit to one event a year? They’ll say “yes please!” Never, ever think that just because you can’t make a weekly, or even a monthly, commitment that your time isn’t valuable or that volunteering won’t be worth it. JUST GO DO IT!
  5. If you let it, it can change your life.
    Go into each experience with a positive attitude, an open mind and an open heart. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed by your busy schedule or question whether you’re really making a difference, but when you get a hug from someone at the food pantry and they tell you they wouldn’t have had anything to feed their kids that night without your help, or you get smothered in puppy kisses from a dog who is so grateful for a walk because he spends 23 hours a day in a cage at the shelter, or you wake up Christmas morning knowing that somewhere out there, a couple of kids are have present under the tree because of you,  IT’S ALL WORTH IT. Volunteering will humble you. It will teach you compassion. It will make you so, so grateful for everything you have in your life.  But beyond that, it’s a way to give back. It’s a way to help others and pay it forward…because you just never know when you might need a little help of your own.
I wanted to do a little local spotlight here and give you guys a peek at one of my favorite places to volunteer here in Columbus. I’ve always been drawn to volunteering at food pantries, and they’ve come a long way since I was little. Now, lots of pantries are Choice Food Pantries, which basically means that the clients get to choose what they want, within certain limits, instead of just being handed a bag of food. 

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank
, which does incredible work here in Central Ohio, recently opened their very own Choice Food Pantry and it is AMAZING. It’s by far the nicest one I’ve ever volunteered at and it’s paving the way for providing healthy, fresh and even local food to the community.

The first time I volunteered at this pantry I was literally blown away by the number of healthy options this pantry has for its clients. I am so happy to see food pantries evolving to provide people with healthy options instead of just canned peas and corn- the traditional food pantry stereotype.

I went a little picture crazy but I really wanted to show you guys some of the things I was impressed by!

I loved all the healthy cereals I saw. The heart-healthy kinds definitely outnumbered the sugary kinds. There were whole wheat pasta options, canned fruit that was unsweetened or in lite syrup and tons of bread- oatnut bread, whole wheat bread, high fiber bread….

One of my favorite parts about the pantry is that they have a “take what you can use” policy for fresh fruits and vegetables and bread. Clients take basically take as many fresh fruits and veggies as they want, as long as they think they can use them. Also, clients can only make a full trip to the pantry 2x per month, but they can come back as many times as they want for fresh produce and bread! How cool is that?! Each week they have different produce but so far i’ve seen things like oranges, apples, pears, kiwis, bananas, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, collard greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions…

The refrigerated cases also impressed me! I saw Greek yogurt, which I never would have expected, locally produced milk and even hummus! I love being able to tell clients how awesome greek yogurt and hummus are and then being able to give them some to try for themselves!

They have a few other cool things too, including recipe suggestions placed around the pantry that clients can take home, My Plate signs to help people learn what food groups they are choosing and they even have reusable shopping bags that were donated!

I look forward to going to volunteer at the pantry every week. Seeing how grateful the clients are at the amount of food we’re able to provide for them is so awesome!

So my challenge to you is to spend a little time this weekend looking at volunteer opportunities in your community. Grab your family, grab some friends, even some co-workers and head out to do a little good for others! Then come back and tell me all about it!

Tell me…do you volunteer? If so, where’s your favorite place to volunteer? If not, have I inspired you??


PS. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond to help the places you’re volunteering at. I reached out to Love Grown Foods, who you all know I think is an amazing company, and they’re sending me a giant box of granola to give away as a little bonus treat to my clients at the pantry next time I go!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Livingston is a Registered Dietitian and new mom from Columbus, Ohio. On her blog, she shares simple, healthy recipes, nutrition tips, workouts and snapshots of her life. Follow her on Twitter @LeanGrnBeanBlog and Instagram @TheLeanGreenBean and be sure to subscribe via RSS or email so you never miss a post!


  1. Great post and a reminder to all! I’m very fortunate as I get to volunteer and work with non-profits as apart of my job and have worked in food panties and soup kitchens before..but none have been quite as amazing as the one you showed!

    My main volunteer interest is with the elderly though. The elderly population is increasing and I feel that society just seems to forget about them (even though we can learn SO MUCH from them!).

  2. this is great linz! i miss volunteering. i used to serve at the soup kitchen every thursday morning. I loved the people and the hearts there. THey changed me!!

  3. excellent post!
    we (my daughter and I) volunteer at church as well as an animal rescue and do some environmental outreaches too.
    Tara Burner recently posted..10 Minute Workout

  4. GREAT post! I volunteered a ton in high school but haven’t gotten to it now in college. It really is so rewarding, I need to get back into it!
    Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile recently posted..Easy Chicken Chili

  5. Awesome post Lindsay!! I also am a big believer in volunteer work and my husband teases me that someday I should try to get a pay job in addition to all of my volunteering! I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and now I volunteer to teach English to a girl in Afghanistan (over Skype) and also with an organization called Teachers Without Borders. Thanks for sharing this post and thanks for volunteering–I’m sure you make a huge difference in lots of people’s life!
    Kristen recently posted..Yumm Bowls and 30-Day Workout Challenge

  6. Great post, Lindsay- and a great reminder that we should all be doing what we can to support our local community. My company has a “Give Back” program that donates labour hours to helping out local causes, it’s great. But of course, I could be doing more myself.
    Amanda recently posted..Review: The Muppets

  7. great post sweetie :) I volunteer because I enjoy it, but it is also great for the dietetics field we are going into 😀 it’s great to have a diverse set of experiences 😀

  8. great post! i volunteered a lot in HS and college, but haven’t done it as much in the past 5(!) years. but i have done some. i’d like to get more into it again, so thanks for the encouragement :)
    Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef recently posted..Pretzel Buckeyes

  9. Volunteering has been a big part of my life as well! I really enjoyed reading this post. I went to a college that really emphasized the need to serve, and that has stayed with me even in the “real world.” I recently joined a group here called NY Cares, and I’ve been having a blast spending weekend morning teaching culinary classes to elementary school kids and helping distribute food at a church food pantry. Eye-opening experiences, for sure, but also incredible rewarding ones. :)
    Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray recently posted..A Weekend in Wine Country: Finger Lakes, NY

  10. Aww what a great post :) It definitely got me thinking about volunteering! It is just so rewarding and feels so good to give back and help others out.
    Lily recently posted..WIAW :)

  11. Great post. I honestly never volunteer – I’m more likely to donate money or items. But this is really a good reminder that time is often worth far more.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Spinning on Wok Wednesday

  12. This is a fantastic post–inspiring and encouraging! I think it’s so (unfortunately) easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget to help those who may be a little less fortunate–I’m know I’m definitely guilty of doing this.
    Danica @ It’s Progression Not Perfection recently posted..My Decision: No Dessert

  13. great reminder! like you, my parents got my sister and i involved in volunteering when we were little. in high school i did nhs and key club, plus i volunteered at a sleep-away camp for developmentally disabled adults and children each summer. camp was one of the hardest things i’ve ever done, but the campers had such an amazing time and loved every minute there, so it was worth it.

    i just had a meeting last night with an organization that i’m starting to volunteer with on a regular basis. i’m really excited about it & can’t wait to get started. :)
    sarah @ sarah learns recently posted..sweet balsamic goat cheese spread

  14. That food bank sounds awesome! I am going to look to see if there’s anything like it in ATL. That sounds like a volunteer opportunity I could really get into!

  15. awesome post and a great motivator! I volunteer at the school I teach at to tutor kids who can’t afford the paid tutoring services. I think it’s important to instill the volunteering spirit at a young age.

    It makes the world better.
    Cat @ Breakfast to Bed recently posted..Naked Under Your Apron

  16. You know I’m a fan of this post! I thnk volunteering is so important. I wish I could do it more!
    Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..How To Eat Healthy

  17. Yay – awesome post!! Everyone should volunteer – it makes you feel good! :) I’m currently a volunteer run coach for Team 65 Roses, a group that raises money for Cystic Fibrosis. I love volunteering with something active, because it helps encourage others to move. :)
    Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted..It’s Too Cold to Bike Outside! {Workout}

  18. I know you said you weren’t fishing for compliments, but you seriously rock! One of my goals once life calms down a bit (after the wedding) is to find an organization that I can volunteer my time with…something involving kids!

  19. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to give back. I like to think I’ve used my blog as a way to give back to the community…at least in Austin, where I helped create recipes and publicize events related to the Food Bank there. Now I need to find out how I can help my NEW community. :)

  20. I really need to get more involved in volunteering. It goes in spurts for me. Sometimes I am really active in the community other times, not so much. It is also just a great way to get to know more people around you and find out what is going on in town.
    Mattie @ Comfy and Confident recently posted..Making a Difference

  21. great post, girlfrannn! Volunteering is hugely important! Its disgusting to think about how much the average person has, compared to those who are in need. The idea that so many people just don’t care breaks my heart.

    I volunteer every Thanksgiving (except this past one, only because I didnt know where one was in my new city) at a soup kitchen. If I can eat my weight in food, the very least I can do is make some and dish it out for those who aren’t going to have the warmth of a home and family on the holiday.

    I also try other times of the year. I love helping out at the soup kitchen. Warms my heart to see how appreciative and amazing some of the people in the world truly can be.
    Charlotte recently posted..Project Wedding: An Attempt At Putting Together A Guest List

  22. Awesome that you volunteer so much!

    I went to Catholic school my entire life and starting in middle school, we had to do a community service project every year and, in high school, we had to have 25 hours of community service each year, so I got my fill of volunteering! One of my main things I did was work at my church’s festival Bingo, and I still do it every summer.
    Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food recently posted..Pearly Whites

  23. I was on the board at my church for 2 1/2 years. I have a special love for teens, so have always volunteered as a youth mentor. Some of them have their own kids now, but they’re still my “kids.” My kids are in high school: one is sick of volunteering (and I know he’ll “get it” eventually, while my other son loves to volunteer for anything that has other people. It’s the best way to feel good about yourself. What’s the song lyric, “You only get what you give?”
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted..No Posts Were Found!

  24. Best post that I have read today! Such an important subject, I hope this encourages readers to serve the needs of others!
    Dena @ 40 Fit in the Mitt recently posted..Let’s Take A Dip

  25. You, my dear, are such an inspiration!! With all that you do AND you volunteer!
    Maureen recently posted..Run, Forrest, Run

  26. LOVE this post, Lindsay! I couldn’t agree with you more. Volunteering is so needed all over the place. It not only helps others but it helps you realize how fortunate you are. I can’t believe the pantry allows their clients to take bread and fresh produce at their leisure. That is seriously amazing! <3

    And kudos to you for reaching out to Love Grown Foods, my lady. You're wonderful!
    Heather @ For the Love of Kale recently posted..Chipotle’s Anti-Factory Farming Commercial

  27. Nice reminder! I started volunteering with the veg group in my city. We’re planning our VegFest now! I think it’s super important not only to promote the vegan and animal rights messages, but to get the word out that healthy eating is important to members of my community. I live in a food dessert and it’s difficult to get good, affordable food even for me and I’m of the more well-paid constituent (which is sad since I’m a student).
    Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles recently posted..My One Sentence

  28. I am a volunteer two days a week at flushing Hospital , I work 5-6 hours two times a week. Everyone is so nice to me. I am busy, I am there to work, I get so much more from being at the hospital. Its keeping me young. I’m 67 years old and it keep me going

  29. Great post, Lindsay! I love to volunteer, but don’t do it nearly often enough. I maybe go once every 3 months with a club that I’m part of. I’ve actually been planning to do a post on our local food pantry too which looks very similar. A lot of the products at our pantry are from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, products that they had overstocked, etc, and it makes me so happy to see that these companies are preventing waste & giving back.
    Diana @ VeggieNextDoor recently posted..Our Trip: Angkor Wat, Cambodia


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