Imagine assisting an elderly person load groceries into their car, or helping a lost dog find its owner. If everyone participated in small acts of kindness regularly, our world would be a better place. Instead, help is one of the major ingredients that our society craves.
Although our nation is labeled the “land of opportunities,” many do not take advantage of all the ways we can better our lives and the lives of others. Whether we are supporting our nation, state or even our local community, any means of help can make a significant impact.
With a small amount of effort, we have the power to lift someone’s spirit or better their lives which can be a gratifying feeling.
Upon hearing the phrases “non-profit organization” or “humanitarian efforts,” many automatically think of the major players that allow us to get involved on a larger, more national scale. Some of those organizations may include: the American Red Cross, United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. Each one equally beneficial and worthwhile.
Vivian Luna, 33, a volunteer for the American Red Cross is passionate about the organization, and has been motivated to donate her time and effort for the past seven years.
“In 2002, I lost my home in a fire,” Luna said. “There I was, a single mother, living paycheck to paycheck and raising my 4-year-old son, dealing with the fact that we were homeless. I can honestly say that it was the hardest time in my life.”
Not having one family member living in California at the time, Luna did not know where to go or who to turn to. It wasn’t until a co-worker suggested that Luna consider going to the American Red Cross for help, an idea that never crossed her mind.
“I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant at first.” Luna said. “I didn’t think that an organization as big as this would help me. We were only two people. This was not some major cause.”
“But I was blown away with the amount of help that I received,” Luna added. “The Red Cross not only helped me get back on my feet financially with collections, but also provided (us) with a place to stay, and food to eat. I feel like I owe them a great deal and I intend to keep repaying them by volunteering my time with them each year.”
Luna’s story shows how important these organizations are and how they can drastically change the course of many lives.
Getting involved locally in our community is just as beneficial. There is a multitude of opportunities to take advantage of, such as volunteering at local hospitals, after school programs, food pantries or shelters.
Jeffrey Gopez, 22, a volunteer at Los Robles Hospital in Ventura County, has always enjoyed his time volunteering.
“It started out as a requirement for high school graduation, but the more and more time I spent here, the more I realized how good I felt about myself,” Gopez said. “The opportunity of wheeling a mother out to her car with her newborn baby in her arms, just seeing the expression, her face is indescribable.”
There are also unconventional ways of volunteering. For example, the non-profit corporation Ride On, located in Newbury Park and Chatsworth, focuses on therapeutic horsemanship. The program was designed to teach horseback riding to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.
Brittany Peterson, 21, a volunteer for Ride On, said that being thrown from a horse when she was six years old could not prevent her from joining the Ride On program.
“I loved the adrenaline and thrill of going fast,” Peterson said. “So naturally, I asked my mom to make the horse go faster. She did, but too fast. My mom couldn’t hold me and the reins at the same time, so we were thrown-off and kissed the hard sand.”
Before she knew it, Peterson was on the ground and in shock. Although Peterson will never forget the horrific accident, she is willing to put it behind her and focus on the greater good.
“Volunteering offers you something unique. Almost like someone turned on the happy switch in your heart, leaving you wanting to help yet another person,” Peterson said. “I hope each person could feel what I’ve felt, the priceless gratification from the simple service of volunteering.”
Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and choose to get involved with certain organizations for all types of reasons. But as along as we’re all doing something to help out in the slightest way, the world will definitely be a better place.