About This Book

One person can make a significant difference in the lives of others. This collection of 101 inspiring stories celebrates volunteers and those who give back, and also shows how the biggest beneficiaries are the givers themselves.

Volunteers and people who give back are models of unconditional kindness, compassion, and love. You choose hope over despair, optimism over cynicism, and caring over indifference. And by serving others, you also help yourself. In this inspiring collection of 101 personal stories by and for volunteers and those who give back, you and your fellow unsung heroes will get some of the recognition and appreciation you deserve.

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Five reasons to incorporate volunteering into your life

Inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back by Amy Newmark; foreword by Carrie Morgridge

Volunteers are models of unconditional kindness, compassion, and love. They are also happier, reporting that the biggest beneficiaries of their charitable activities are themselves. In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back, you'll read 101 stories about all the ways volunteering changes lives. Here are five reasons to add volunteering to your life:

  1. Volunteering can help you heal. Ann Clark Van Hine's husband Bruce died in the line of duty on September 11, 2001. Four years later she was invited to volunteer with the September 11th Families Association as a docent for the 9/11 Tribute Center. She didn't even know what a docent was, but she made her way to downtown Manhattan, met others who had experienced the same tragedy as she had, and was finally able to talk about her loss. Ann says, "There have been even more benefits for me. My decision to pursue this volunteer opportunity led to two trips to Japan to share my 9/11 story with survivors of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. I was humbled and blessed beyond measure to be able to share my story as an avenue to encourage others. As I help others, my healing continues."
  2. Volunteering can transform a teenager. When Kathryn M. Hearst's fifteen-year-old son Dylan complained that she was spending more time with other people's children than her own, she knew she had to do something. She took Dylan to meet one of the children she was helping, a seven-year-old boy with a major heart condition who was desperately in need of surgery. Though they didn't speak the same language, Dylan and Hector played and laughed together all day. Once he understood the need, Dylan wanted to help the children, too. Kathryn reports, "He accompanied me to Jacksonville every day until it was time to say a tearful goodbye to Hector." And her "formerly moody teenager" continued to volunteer with her at the hospital for the next few years.
  3. Volunteering helps you appreciate your own life. Several days into repairing a dilapidated trailer home in Appalachia Sharon Struth finally had a conversation with the owner, a sad-looking, gray-haired woman who, as it turned out, was only eight years older that Sharon. The woman explained how surprised she was to have ended up in need, and also complimented Sharon on her stylish hair, nice skin, and straight, white teeth, things that Sharon took for granted, even though they cost money. As Sharon explains, "Her kind words showed me a blessing I normally don't see in the midst of complaining. How I've had great dental care my entire life, a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables, and the use of some fine skin care products." Gratitude spilled out of her. "Now, when I look in the mirror and feel the urge to complain, I'm reminded of my week sweating in the hot southern sun and the words of a very wise woman who'd fallen on hard times."
  4. Volunteering is your way to say thank you. When her marriage, child support payments and job all fell out from under her, L.A. Strucke turned to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. They provided professional mentorship, food for her family, and help finding scholarships so she could finish her education. After she got back on her feet, L.A. says, "Life was good, but something was lacking. I couldn't stop thinking of those volunteers who helped me when I was down and out. I needed to do the right thing and give something back. I picked up the telephone." She started volunteering at the same center that helped her. Only then did she realize just how important volunteering is: "probably the most important thing you can do in this lifetime."
  5. Volunteering can make you stronger. When Connie K. Pombo walked tearfully out of her tactless oncologist's office, all she could think about was how terrible he had made her feel. After the receptionist rolled her eyes at the request for a "well waiting room" Connie decided that something needed to be done to help patients. She developed a seminar: "What to Say and How to Help When Someone You Know Has Cancer." The day of her first presentation, she says, "I didn't feel nervous, but rather empowered, because I knew that I was going to make a difference in other people's lives. The lights dimmed slightly as I started my presentation and introduced myself as a breast cancer survivor. I explained the first words the oncologist said to me and I saw tears and heads nodding in agreement as I spoke." Connie has been spreading her message of empowerment for eighteen years now, speaking all across the country.
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