Why I Volunteer

By Ann Bitela, VOICE vendor

Photo by Linette Hidalgo.I volunteer at Goodwill. I have to volunteer 23 hours per month for my benefits (specifically food stamps). I am in workforce, which helps in preparing you to look for a job. I have to take part in workforce to receive food stamps, and workforce requires me to either work or volunteer a certain number of hours.

Since I’m not working the hours I should be for workforce, it is only fair that I give my time as a trade-off for my food stamps.

Basically, they float me through the store and I help out in various departments. In the men’s department, I sort clothes, hang them up by size, and watch the dressing rooms. I show items to customers. I have two supervisors who are just wonderful; I’ve learned so much from them.

I have one supervisor from the men’s department at Goodwill who always thanks me for helping out. The people there are awesome. Sometimes they think I’m employed there, and when they find out I volunteer, they always smile and thank me.

Volunteering makes me feel fantastic! The people I meet are so wonderful—both customers and coworkers. I love the fact that I’m doing something to help out, and, in turn, helping myself out in the process.

When I went through my dark period of being homeless, volunteers I met helped lift my spirits. At Samaritan House, for example, the volunteers would tell me not to give up hope. They would offer encouragement. Prior to being homeless, I never gave volunteering much thought. Today, I have a totally different mindset about volunteering.

I’ve seen the love and care of the volunteers I’ve come across. They help people in need, they never complain, and they always serve you with a smile and make sure your needs are met. They get no pay; sometimes they don’t even get thanked. Still, you can see in their eyes that what they are doing is so rewarding. When I volunteer, I follow their examples in helping others. 

Volunteering can be hard work. What I’ve learned about myself from volunteering is I have more strength and endurance than I thought. It’s just a wonderful feeling to put someone else first and hope that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.