Healthy habits come in many shapes and sizes. Sure, we all have our healthy eating and exercise habits and we know that it's healthy to not smoke, to wear our seatbelts and to get enough rest. But volunteer for health? Absolutely.
Studies such as The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
I recently spent the morning at Minnie's Food Pantry in Plano. I brought in a small food donation and stayed to volunteer for a few hours. Without question, it was the healthiest I ™d felt in a long time and here's why:
1. Founder Cheryl Jackson and her volunteer team that day consisted of a retired AT&T employee with self proclaimed people skills , a 21-year old college student who has been volunteering at since high school; I only take classes in the afternoon, so I ™m here most mornings , a retired gentleman who stated to me I ™ll see YOU again next time! , a recent Los Angeles transplant who is currently searching for a job and two women who were clearly old-timers at the pantry. They knew the routine like the back of their hand and were quick, efficient, cheerful and helpful, as was everyone else. Each of these people-strangers essentially-reached out to me with a hug or a touch of their hand and a heartfelt thank you when I arrived and when I left.
2. Each person who enters Minnie's is treated with true respect and dignity. Customer service is of the utmost importance for each volunteer and it's apparent in every nook and cranny of the pantry. Small red Minnie's shopping cart line the walls and person receives carry out service by a volunteer. Young, old, Spanish speaking, shoe-less, disabled-it didn't matter. Every person left with a full trunk of food. And perhaps, a bit of hope, too.
3. A regular donor backed his car into the parking space in front of the pantry and lifted the hood. He brought several cases of food for donation that were quickly tagged for processing. After speaking with Cheryl for a time about her great need for Thanksgiving meals for the 1200 families that have already signed up at the pantry, he quietly wrote a check for $3,000.00. With tears in her eyes, Cheryl told me that this money will be used to purchase all of the side items for the dinners for each of these families. This now leaves her to concentrate on finding the turkeys that she will need to complete the meals.
Volunteer, giving back, being altruistic. Whatever you call it, do it. Believe me. It's good for your health, your heart, your mind and your soul.
Minnie's Food Pantry needs 1200 turkeys for Thanksgiving. If you ™d like to donate money, food or volunteer your time, contact Sheryl at www.minniesfoodpantry.org. I ™ll be back on Friday morning for another dose.