Volunteering not only feels good, but it has some other advantages, too!

The Advantages of Volunteering

by Debra L. Karplus, MS

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You've heard that The Nutcracker will be performed in town, with an outstanding orchestra and professional dancers. Though you've seen it at home on TV, you've always wanted to see this delightful ballet, live with glittery costumes of Sugar Plum fairies and dancing flowers and snowflakes. Then you discovered that tickets to even the "cheap" balcony seats were ridiculously expensive. Before you become overwhelmed with feelings of disappointment, phone the theater and ask about volunteering for the show, because it is likely that they could use your help in exchange for free admission to the show. It's a benefit of volunteering.

Volunteering makes us feel good, useful, and appreciated. We enjoy helping other people, but one of the many benefits of volunteering for performances rather than clubs or committees is that typically you get to choose the dates and events you want to help with, and then you can watch and enjoy the performance. That it is a one-time commitment makes it pleasant and you don't feel trapped or stuck the way you might when you volunteer for a committee or a board. And once you figure out how easy it is to volunteer, you will be amazed how many other places need your help in exchange for free admission.

Whether you live in a large city, such as Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, a Big Ten University or small college town or a medium sized metropolis, community theaters and concert halls welcome volunteers for a variety of tasks, such as mailings and phone calls. But if you sign up to usher, you have it made because you are already inside the theater, which is exactly where you want to be so you can see the show. So put on your black and white clothes or whatever your theater requires their volunteers to wear. Once you've helped patrons locate the restrooms and find their seats and you've passed out programs, you generally get to sit down and enjoy the show just like all the paying audience members.

Volunteer with a friend or family member and you can sit together and pat yourselves on the back for all the money you saved by volunteering. What a clever way to learn to appreciate jazz, drama, dance, acoustic guitar, opera, a symphony, musicals, the Philharmonic, chamber music, a rock band, a comedy show, choral music, or some off-beat films in a film festival, without paying a penny. Help with the opening night reception and you may even be "paid" with a sumptuous meal and beverages.

Your local park district may also need some help from volunteers for outdoor festivals, races, marathons, sporting events, cultural arts showcases, blues festivals, and food tasting events. Volunteer to attend a booth, such as registration or hospitality, and you may get free admission and even some coupons or tickets for free food and drink. Some events may have opportunities for child volunteers as well as adults. How fun to get the entire family involved in volunteering!

Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. Now take the first step to getting there.

Even Disneyland and Disney World have an enticing volunteer program. The Give a Day, Get a Day program allows you to volunteer for a day at either of the Disney Theme parks in California or Florida, and in exchange, you receive a ticket for free admission on a different day. Other amusement and theme parks may offer similar deals for volunteers. Museums, art galleries, and zoos often depend on volunteer time also. Make some calls to see if you can become an active volunteer for places that interest you.

As you volunteer regularly at your favorite places you will meet like-minded people who appreciate stretching their dollars as you do and have discovered the satisfaction from exchanging free time for free admission into pricey events.

Be creative. Think of places you'd like to attend but haven't been able to afford or are simply too expensive. Visit or phone the place during their non-busy daytime hours and see if they need your help. You'll be amazed. Before you know it, you may have acquired a colorful collection of assorted t-shirts from various events where you have volunteered, which will surpass any scrapbook you might create to stir wonderful memories. Just some of the many benefits of volunteering.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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