Volunteering: Making a New Experience a Habit

On Thursday April 27th, I took a few hours out of my otherwise uneventful day to volunteer at Brandywine Creek State Park here in northern Delaware. It was a day full of new experiences, volunteering in general being the newest of them all.

I arrived at the Thompson Bridge in Brandywine Creek State Park and as I joined the volunteer group that was still awaiting members to find the location — the directions were a little obscure, but not too hard to figure out.

Two members we were waiting for were English 462’s very own Alex and Caitlin!

Our task of the day was to pick up any trash along the creek’s path, as well as remove an invasive species called Garlic Mustard. Our volunteer guide, Eleanor, informed everyone that this park is fairly well-kept and was mostly untouched by invasive species — except for that pesky Garlic Mustard.

Garlic Mustard, the invasive species, along the edge of the creek (Left) and the Stinging Nettle (Right)

Speaking of pesky plants, another species we encountered was a Stinging Nettle, it felt like a bug bite or sting and left a reaction on your skin that reminded me of hives. After the initial encounter, Alex, Caitlin, and I were worried about what this plant was since we had no previous information or warning about it. By the time we regrouped and had a chance to speak with Eleanor again, she assured us that there was nothing to worry about and the reaction would go away within an hour.

Overall this new experience was extremely beneficial; not only to me, but to my community.

There have been studies conducted that prove a correlation between volunteer work/community service and positive effects on physical and mental health. As I considered these studies a website Corporation for National and Community Service has a page including information about “those who give support through volunteering experience greater health benefits than those who receive support through these activities.”

This website provided information that would be expected, such as how community service is linked to sense of pride and connection to one’s community. What I didn’t know about is how volunteering can provide more benefits to adults age 60 and older. Being involved in community work that benefits something more than themselves provides a sense of purpose and personal sense of accomplishment.

That is not to say that younger members of a community won’t get as much out of volunteering as the older members; it’s never a bad idea to start young and get the hang of being involved as early as possible!

Getting involved with a state park in my area was a great first jump into the world of volunteer work; it was outdoors, I worked with friends, and it benefitted the environment which is something I try to do with every action I take.

Knowing that I helped my community a little bit by taking a few hours out of one day is rewarding. When people like me have a great first experience with volunteer work, it’s likely to become a habit and the benefits don’t have to end after one day.

Consider volunteer work in your local area. Think about something you’re passionate about, and put some time into it to make sure it can stay there (like your state and public parks, for example)!

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