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Study Shows Volunteering Has Both Social and Health Benefits

April 10, 2019 07:15 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Time is precious and many choose to spend their time helping others and bettering their community. In fact, the most recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show 1 in 4 Americans volunteer, contributing 7.9 billion hours each year (or the equivalent of $184 billion).

Jim Voegeli and his rescue poodle, Maggie, have been greeting patients at hospitals around the region for 7 years. The therapy dog has had more than 3,000 encounters with people at Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center (OMC).

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“Maggie helped one patient die. His last moments the family asked us to get her up in bed and he soon died,” said Voegeli. “She has even helped people in emergency rooms who were very stressed out.”

On Wednesday, Voegeli was among dozens recognized at OMC’s annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon.

“We contributed 6,000 hours of volunteer time to Olmsted Medical Center with our 90 volunteers,” said Kelly Owens, the Health Promotion & Community Outreach Coordinator at OMC.

Which is still a drop in the bucket when you think about the hundreds of organizations, nonprofits and churches in Olmsted County that rely on volunteers.

“We do a lot with a small amount of dollars,” said Melanie Brennan, the Executive Director of ExcercisABILITIES. “So the more volunteers we have, it improves our impact because we are able for our staff to be more efficient and effective.”

ExercisABILITIES helps those with cognitive and mobility impairments live active, healthy lives. Brennan says volunteers are always needed. “They may help physically be that extra safety person,” she said. “They might help us with equipment; maybe putting equipment away or setting it up. They may entertain or talk to individuals.”

Voegeli says choosing to volunteer is rewarding. “You meet people, you learn skills,” he said.

There are also health benefits. A study by the Corporation for National Community Service shows volunteering can lower stress,  improve mental health, reduce the risk of disease and even add years to your life.

It’s no surprise to Voegeli. “I had to retire suddenly because I had heart surgery a year and a half ago,” he said. “I actually think I had my first depression last year. I see the joy Maggie brings to other people and it lifts my spirits as well.”

Credits

Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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