With millions of Americans struggling during the pandemic, volunteering is now more important than ever, but it can be difficult to join a committee, participate in a fundraiser or take on a community project in a time of social isolation.
Young Leaders United, a volunteer committee of young professionals organized by the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, has been working tirelessly to coordinate virtual and socially distant volunteer opportunities.
Organizer Emily Sassano has been involved with United Way since 2018, first as a member of the AmeriCorps and then as a Resource Development Coordinator. Part of her responsibilities involve heading Young Leaders meetings.
She shared some of the changes the committee has been experiencing with hosting volunteer events during a pandemic.
“What we can have people do in person, we haven’t been having volunteers come into the building at all,” she said. “It is tricky, because we of course, our number one priority would be to keep people safe.”
Shannon Myers, a former intern with United Way and current member of Young Leaders, emphasizes that there is a greater need to give back with the amount of challenges many are facing due to the pandemic.
“Start as soon as possible!,” she said to future volunteers. “Once you do, you’ll wonder why you weren’t always volunteering!”
As longtime volunteers for the organization, both Myers and Sassano shared what giving back has meant to them.
“The most rewarding aspect of my work was the feeling that I was making a choice to show up for the community, even though the was no financial gain for myself,” said Myers.
Sassano enjoys the networking opportunities that are gained from volunteering.
“Being able to go out to other organizations and learn more about what they do, I would say is one of the highlights,” she said.
All and all, she advises new volunteers to use it as an opportunity to try something new.
“You won’t know if you like it until you try,” she said. “So I’d say to go for it. It may surprise you if you’ve been hoping to do it before how rewarding it can feel.”