I have been fortunate to serve Meals on Wheels as Executive Director for the past 20 years. In my new blog, I hope to share some of the lighter moments of this journey. And since I believe what we do is such a simple premise, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” I will title my blog, “Barb’s Neighborhood Blog.”
“Volunteering is a Healthy Habit”
Our volunteers are amazing people – they truly are why we can do what we do. And while we think of all that they give to our clients – friendship, wellness checks and nutritional food – volunteering is also beneficial to the volunteer’s own health. It is clearly a winning combination.
Over the years, I have heard many personal stories about volunteers temporarily leaving our program to deal with surgeries, injuries, chronic illnesses, even a death of a spouse and them all wanting to come back as soon as possible to deliver to their clients. This is what they love and this is what creates a sense of normalcy in their lives.
As many of you know, I am a breast cancer survivor and during a very difficult time in my life in 2007, I was reminded of another breast cancer survivor, Marge Jacobs. In 1971, Marge started Meals on Wheels in Indianapolis. Her husband suggested she do something bigger than her life so as to not think about the cancer. I might add the prognosis at that time was not as optimistic as it is today. So Marge threw herself into MOW and her passion to help people. Meals on Wheels is what it is today because of her will and determination. And guess what? Marge lived until 1997 and the age of 86. Can delivering meals cure cancer? No, but a positive, giving attitude certainly helps when you are fighting that fight or going through any difficult time in your life.
So, why is volunteering for MOW so healthy?
Let me count the ways:
Physical exercise. We all know walking works wonders for your heart. Experts say everyone who walks should try to get in the minimum of 10,000 steps per day to increase cardio strength and maintain a healthy weight. We believe delivering one route can give you up to 50% of those steps.
Relationships. “No man is an island.” People need positive relationships and friendships to sustain a healthy life. This works for both our clients and our volunteers.
Self-Confidence. We now have research data which shows volunteering increases self-confidence and gives people a natural sense of accomplishment and pride. It is often called the “helper’s high.”
Stress and depression. We also now have data that indicates volunteering lowers stress and depression. Volunteers focus on their clients and leave their own problems behind. As they say, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
And these are just a few benefits of volunteering, but the list goes on. For more information, I have attached a couple of websites that I found interesting. Ok, I’ll be honest here, all of these studies refer to volunteering in general and not specifically Meals on Wheels. But I think MOW is on to something with the “walking” part.
The fact of the matter is volunteering is a healthy habit for both our clients and you!