Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thoughts on Volunteering: Why Do It?

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of volunteering lately. Last week it came to the fore front again with Aline and Emmanuel. As I mentioned they are from France and volunteering is something that is not part of their culture there. They are on a personal journey to document volunteerism in America and especially Faith-based volunteering efforts.

Meeting and talking with them caused me to think more about why were are involved in this type of volunteering. I offer some thoughts for your consideration and comment.

So why do we volunteer with NOMADS and Habitat for Humanity?

- We like the work
The work has been painting plus a whole assortment of repair and /or installation jobs on homes; both new and older ones. We have replaced windows, doors, installed flooring, put up vinyl siding and soffets, replaced broken windows, done trim work, put up sheet rock, built fencing and gates, installed ceiling fans and lights, put up shelving and other items. We like the variety and learning how to do new things. And we like using the power tools :)

- We want to find our niche.
The more we volunteer the more we learn about ourselves and the value of the volunteering. I believe volunteering while being full-time RVers has no more intrinsic value than volunteering to be a coach, or a scout leader, or a Sunday School teacher or a PTA committee member... Volunteering is volunteering and hats off to those that do.

Unfortunately, I think some volunteer activities are singled out as more worthy than others when many of them are the same. I recognize volunteering for a dangerous mission or life threatening situation is entirely in its own category, but for the most a lot of volunteering is the same in many ways.

We want to do more than painting and found we like the team work and 'product' of what we construct or the end result of Disaster Recovery work or Habitat for Humanity work. For us working with our hands and seeing the result of our efforts in a few days is fun.

- We like the people.
95% of the people we have met in volunteering are like minded folks who want to 'give back' or 'make a difference' or 'contribute' and are hard working folks. Since most of the projects we have participated in are with other RVers we have an additional area of commonality. Many are builders and/or do-it-yourself-ers and are fairly handy and we have also been able to learn new skills from them.

- It is time for us do this.
I really think that a person or family has times in their life that it makes sense to volunteer. If you have three kids under six years old, maybe you shouldn't be volunteering at this time of your life. For us, we are in our mid-50's, our kids are grown and we have our health. We were able to sell our home and become debt free. We are planners and willing to take a risk. For us, the time is now or never. Others have said, 'wish we'd have done it sooner'. Now and for the foreseeable future, the time for us is now.

- It gives us a reason to go to a particular destination.

We started full-time RVing in May 2009. We have planned our travel schedule according to where friends and family live. We also plan where we want to be according to where particular volunteer projects are located. NOMADS and Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners publish a project schedule months ahead of the dates so we can see if there are projects in the area of the country where we want to be.

- It gives us a sense of satisfaction.

No doubt about it. Doing something nice for a homeowner you will never meet or someone you don't know makes a person feel good. The enthusiasm on projects is contagious. Most folks are committed to doing each job well. At the end of the day, at the end of the week, we are grateful to be doing something worthwhile that is appreciated.

- We get a sense of purpose in our retirement.

When we first thought about being out on the road as full-timers, we thought in terms of seeing the country and going to wonderful places. We thought we'd like to play a lot of golf. Our perspective has changed. Those things are great for a while but they do not give one a sense of worth and purpose. Volunteering does.

- It usually means we will be spending less money.

The thought of going from our high income years to our low income years in retirement is a bit scary. We have a modest pension and a few hours we can work for pay online. But most of the way we make ends meet is to find ways to spend less money. We eat out less often. We find we don't need to buy as many 'things' as we used to. When we volunteer, often times, the places we park the Roadrunner are free or we pay a nominal fee. That saves a lot of money on our budget which helps take the pressure off.

In the year or so we have been volunteering (first with Habitat for Humanity and now also with NOMADS), including the last five months we have been full-timing, we have experienced a real joy. It has been something we look forward to and volunteering is something we see ourselves doing for a long time to come, Lord willing. We would be glad to have you join us or we'd be glad to answer any questions you may have about our experiences.

I wanted to offer some thoughts on our passion in the Roadrunner Chronicles would love to hear from you on the subject. Where do you volunteer? How did you get into it? Why do YOU volunteer? What are some thoughts you have on volunteering? It would be great to hear your story.

Thanks for viewing today and checking in on the Roadrunner Chronicles. Hope your week gets off to a great start!


  1. We really enjoyed this very thoughtful post. You are definitly inspiring us to volunteer when we start full timing.

    Thank you,

    Carol & John

  2. I've worked in the non-profit sector for the past 20 years and we could not survive without volunteers.

    Hence my comment a few journal entries ago....

    Hereo's aren't born, they become volunteers!