If volunteerism is a measure
of someone’s passion, then Lisa Sellman’s knows no bounds.
a professional dog trainer and owner of a pet care business,
volunteers periodically with no fewer than 16 different
organizations, with her activities ranging from working at
an animal shelter to taking disabled kids on nature hikes
during the summer. She is a community activist and lifelong
volunteer, and she knows what it means to serve others.
"If you want to feel good, volunteer," said Sellman, also
author of the children’s book The Legend of the Wolves of
Gunflint Lake (www.lisasellman.com),
which contains the theme of the value of community service.
"There are few ways to feel as good about yourself as
volunteering. Now, I realize that many of us are wrapped up
with work and family, trying to make ends meet, so the idea
of volunteering can seem like it’s just another ‘have-to’ to
write into the already crowded calendar. However, I know for
a fact that if you do it right, it can be a great stress
reliever and a source of true joy in your life."
The key to discovering that feeling is to let your passion
guide you when you decide to volunteer, she added. Her tips
for beginning volunteers include:
• Choose Wisely
– Many people get "roped into" volunteering for an
organization because their boss is involved with a charity
or a family member is working on a community project. Those
can be rewarding ways to enter volunteerism, but only if the
project is a match for your personal interests. The most
important aspect to volunteerism is to find what you love,
and direct your energies into a charity or community
organization that matches those passions. If you’re an
animal lover, work with a wildlife rescue mission or animal
shelter. If you are a nature buff, there are plenty of
environmental foundations that can use an extra set of
hands. If sports is your thing, there are plenty of
community recreation centers that need coaches for needy
kids enrolled in their programs. No matter your interest,
you can match it to a cause that needs help. Just pick the
right one, and your volunteer time won’t be a chore – it
will be a joy.
• Watch Your
Schedule – As much as
you want your passion to direct your choice of project, you
don’t want those volunteer projects to rule your schedule.
Make sure you balance your volunteer time carefully so that
your professional life and your family time doesn’t take a
critical hit. Most organizations will take as much time as
you offer them, but if you only have an hour or two each
week, they’ll take that time, too. Your volunteer life
should not consume your work or home life.
• Have Fun
– Helping others is its own reward, but it shouldn’t feel
like a chore. Even the most mundane task can be fun if you
manage it with a sense of humor and passion for helping
"You don’t have to spend a lot of time as a volunteer,"
Sellman said. "If everyone gave even just an hour a week,
every community organization in the country would be turning
volunteers away, because they’d have more than enough. The
key is to understand that volunteerism doesn’t have to take
over your life, and that if you do it right, it will add far
more to your spirit than it takes away from your calendar."
About the Author
Sellman is a professional dog trainer and owner of a pet
care business who volunteers for half a dozen charitable
organizations. She believes that community service is its
own reward, a message that resonates throughout her
children’s book The Legend of the Wolves of Gunflint Lake.
The book encourages parents and children to discuss being of
service in the community and how this can lead to lives of
compassion and connectedness. (www.lisasellman.com)