When most people think about volunteering, they think about giving - giving time, giving skills, giving help. But in truth, it seems giving back isn’t just about giving. It’s about getting, too.
According to Dr. Blake Wagner, clinical psychologist and president of New Directions Counseling Center in Mansfield, “serving other people is such good medicine for ourselves.”
According to Wagner, those who volunteer reap numerous psychological benefits, not the least of which being a defense against depression and a means of reducing stress.
Indeed, Wagner explained volunteering offers a crucial trifecta: “Altruism, social connection mastering and pleasure.” When tapping into all three of these things, volunteering can provide a positive impact on one’s mental state.
Charil Fuhrer, Clothing Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at the Belville Neighborhood Outreach Center (BNOC), echoed this sentiment. “It’s the satisfaction of knowing you help somebody,” she said. “I can see the difference in myself mentally.”
While teaching at Ohio State Mansfield, Wagner used to replicate a positive psychology study on pleasure versus altruism with his students. For one Saturday, he asked students to have a day of pleasure. “They were just to have fun and pamper themselves. So they could play video games, go to Panera,” Wagner said. And then, on the next Saturday students had to do an altruistic act. “[It] didn’t have to be the whole day but definitely some kind of volunteer work,” he explained.
Similar to the results of the formal study, Wagner and his class found that students experienced a boost in mood after both the pleasure and altruism days. Following the pleasure day, students’ mood boost lasted a week. After the altruistic day, however, “the mood boost would last a month,” Wagner revealed.
Fuhrer, who has now been volunteering for six years, is no exception this phenomenon.
“[Volunteering] uplifts me,” she said, “because I know every day I have a reason to get up and go do something and to help somebody.”
Fuhrer began volunteering part time while still working in 2013. “I was in here shopping, and I said, ‘How do I become a volunteer?’… I don’t know; something just called me here,” Fuhrer reflected. “I have been that child before to not have clothing and not have food. So this is my go-to, because I can pay back.”
But volunteering doesn’t just better the mind. It can also offer the opportunity to stay active.
When Fuhrer retired three years ago, volunteering took on added purpose. “I always said that I was never one to sit at home and do nothing at all,” she said. Volunteering has given Fuhrer a means of avoiding “let[ting] my health go [because] that was my decision.”
Fellow BNOC volunteer Linda Rivers also looks to her twice-weekly volunteer shifts stocking the Center’s food pantry to keep her active. “I get a lot of exercise,” Rivers said enthusiastically.
Perhaps the best part about volunteering? There’s no one-size-fits-all. Whether you have a lot of time to give or a little, whether you want to be outside or in, sitting or standing, there’s bound to be an opportunity for you.
Below is an abridged listing of volunteer opportunities in the area. For more information about volunteering in Richland County or to be matched with volunteer opportunities specific to your interests, dial 211 (alt. 419-522-4636).
741 Scholl Rd., Mansfield; 419-774-2202; catalystlifeservices.org
National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI)
Richland County, 420 Stewart Ln., Mansfield; 419-522-6264; nami.org
FOOD PANTRIES, CLOTHING CLOSETS
Bellville Neighborhood Outreach Center
84 N. Main St., Belville; 419-886-8395; bnoc.org
HOPE Food Pantry
523 Park Ave. E, Mansfield; 419-524-0733; catholiccharitiesnwo.org
Freedom Ridge Church
2200 Bedford Blvd., Mansfield; 419-747-3204
41 Bowman St., Mansfield; 419-524-2661; gracemansfield.org
296 Park Ave. W, Mansfield; 419-524-3802; mosaicmansfield.com
Shelby Help Line Ministries
29 1/2 Walnut St., Shelby; 419-347-6307; shelbyhelplineministries.org
St. Timothy Lutheran Church
47 S. Main St., Mansfield; 419-589-5252; sttimmansfield.org
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity of Ohio, Richland & Crawford Counties
115 Park Ave. W, Mansfield; 419-524-8416; habitatofrcc.org
Mansfield Richland County Public Library System
43 W. Third St., Mansfield (Main Library); 419-521-3100; mrcpl.org
Marvin Memorial Library
29 W. Whitney Ave., Shelby; 614-347-5576; marvinlibrary.org
VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA
Volunteers of America, Ohio and Indiana—Mansfield
280 N. Main St., Mansfield; 419-525-4589
ARTS AND COMMUNITY
Mansfield Art Center
700 Marion Ave., Mansfield; 419-756-1700 x105; mansfieldartcenter.org
Downtown Mansfield, Inc.
128 N. Main St., Mansfield; 419-522-0099; downtownmansfield.com
Richland Academy of the Arts
75 N. Walnut St., Mansfield; 419-522-8224; richlandacademy.com