PHOTO: Megan Looney fulfills her philanthropy hours for NCL by baking dozens of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for the upcoming Yolo Crisis Nursery fundraiser.
By Caroline Chilcott,
Two girls blow up balloons, forming cloud-like figures that will hang from the ceiling and light structures. Close by, their mothers staple pamphlets, including adventure passports and tickets. Meanwhile, across the room, a brother and sister duo hang grass skirts across the UC Davis Mind Institute reception desk.
These volunteers are preparing for the thousands of guests who will attend the UC Davis Mind Institute’s annual “Thank You Party.”
Volunteering looks good on a job or college application, but many volunteers have other motivations.
“Everyone should volunteer in some way because you can have amazing experiences, while it also leads to a better community,” said senior Alli Ayers, who previously volunteered for the City of Davis Nutcracker and City of Davis summer camps. “I feel good knowing I improved someone’s life in some way, even if it’s just a small thing like playing a game with a child.”
Ayers currently volunteers at the National Charity League (NCL), a non-profit organization composed of mother and daughter members who partner and volunteer with several local organizations. The Davis NCL chapter is currently partnered with 20 nonprofit organizations.
The NCL Vice President of Philanthropy, Laura Barger, makes volunteer signups easily accessible for fellow members through the organization’s new app. Barger enjoys volunteering with her daughters at St. John’s and other organizations available through NCL.
“I believe everyone has the opportunity to volunteer, but it can be some work to find an organization where your schedule and talents work with the organization’s needs,” Barger said.
This app gives NCL members a chance to try out the varied philanthropies to find where they would like to spend their time volunteering.
Often, people volunteer to create memories or experiences to look back on. Others choose to volunteer as valuable preparation for future career opportunities.
“I volunteer for knowledge that I can use to help me continue to follow my dream of becoming a veterinarian,” said sophomore Reyna Shauman, current volunteer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Shauman inserts microchips into cats and dogs and does other “medical things” while volunteering at the SPCA.
Earlier this year, Shauman was awarded “Volunteer of the Year” by the Yolo County SPCA. “It was really cool to be acknowledged for all of the hours that I spent with [the SPCA],” Shauman said.
Often, those who volunteer build bonds with those they help. “I have made many unlikely friendships with the younger kids and other volunteers while volunteering,” said sophomore Hazel George, current volunteer for the City of Davis Nutcracker.
While much effort and hard work is needed to volunteer, the end result is rewarding.
For two entire swim practices, Isha Thoreson’s Special Olympics’ buddy was terrified of the water. When the boy refused to get in the pool, Thoreson persisted and encouraged him to.
As the summer continued, he became more and more comfortable and eventually was able to put his head underwater and blow bubbles. By the end of the summer, he was almost always excited to get in the water and eager to race and swim.
“It was really cool to see him overcome his fear and find out he actually really enjoys swimming,” Thoreson said. “It felt like I had made a real difference in his life.”
Amanda Berry, the NCL Class of 2021 president, volunteers with intellectually and/or physically disabled athletes with Team Davis and has had similar experiences to Thoreson. “You really get to know all of the players and see them improve throughout the weeks,” Berry said.
At the end of the year, the athletes get to participate in the Special Olympics. “The participants walk in with huge smiles on their faces during the opening ceremony, which really makes the volunteering worth it,” Berry said.
But the reward of volunteering doesn’t stop there. Athletes recognize volunteers around the streets of downtown Davis and chat with them. “I think by doing volunteer work we gain new friendships along with helping those in our community,” Berry said.
“It’s always meaningful when you can help others,” Barger said. “As a volunteer, I feel great the rest of the day knowing I accomplished so much and helped so many people.”