April is National Volunteer Month, a time when we celebrate those in our communities who put their time and effort into causes they believe in and look for ways we can get more involved ourselves. 

Americans have always had a spirit of volunteerism. Even before the country was founded, men and women alike were volunteering their time, money, resources and lives to the cause for freedom. As our country grew, we earned a reputation for our “voluntary associations” when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and wrote Democracy in America.  

De Tocqueville marveled at Americans’ knack for forming associations outside of government control. These associations were political, social or philanthropic, and filled a need identified in society; proof that government interference is not necessary to take care of each other and achieve success for a cause. 

Today, we follow in our predecessors’ footsteps. Americans continue to give their money, but also their time to volunteer for causes they love. Studies have shown that volunteer rates have declined recently, so it’s more than important ever to give our time to care for those who in need.  

Here are a few ways you can volunteer and make a difference in your community. 

Become a community leader: You can start small, right in your own community. Join a committee in your apartment complex, organize yard sales for charity, help keep your community clean, or get involved in local politics in your town. 

Mentor: Giving your time to people is rewarding on both sides. There are dozens of ways you can connect with those around you and help each other along the way. Get involved in mentorship programs for children, volunteer to tutor or teach community classes in your neighborhood or church. 

Get your hands dirty: Jump into a project that needs as many hands as it can get. You can build homes or serve food at distribution centers. But all those causes also need behind-the-scenes people. Volunteer for the not-so-glamorous jobs like cleaning up, organizing and record keeping. Those tasks keep the operation running smoothly! 

Throw on a staff shirt: Giving money and resources is always helpful, but those causes also need your time and personality. Hold a staff race for charity or run the school bake sale instead of just bringing cookies or coaching Little League.  

Volunteering benefits everyone. Sure, the organizations or individuals receiving help get what they need. But as a volunteer, you also get more than you bargained for, in a good way!  

Volunteers learn new skills, build communities of friends and neighbors, learn more about life and their place in it, and gain a sense of pride and purpose. 

Let this month be the beginning of your journey to get involved in your community and give your time. Find an organization or cause that’s looking for someone just like you to help them out!