We can all look back and cringe at our high school days when we were required to complete a ridiculous amount of community service hours in order to earn state scholarship money. How awful, right?
I wish back then I knew how important my participation really was.
My very first experience volunteering and helping out in my community was at Metropolitan Ministries in Brandon, Fla. I helped pack crates of food for struggling families during the holiday season, and was probably on-site for around eight hours. Honestly, at first I was not thrilled to be there. I knew I had an extremely long day ahead of me, and the power of helping others had not yet sunk in. As the day went on, I was able to see how much of a help I actually was, and how much I was contributing to all of those around in the community. In the end, it was a truly rewarding experience that I am still very grateful for.
Several years and volunteer experiences later, I began getting involved in the sport business community within Orlando. I started indulging in any volunteer opportunity I could get my hands on, such as helping with sponsorship activation at a Disney 3-v-3 soccer tournament. At the conclusion of this tournament, the representative we were working with gathered us, thanked us for our participation and hard work, and offered us internships on the spot. That’s when I began to realize that there was a personal benefit to such participation. From that day on, I signed up and worked as many volunteer opportunities as I could, seeing so many different faces and meeting so many different managers and supervisors. This was a whole new world in the aspect of networking to me, and not only was I meeting important people in my field of study, but I was also contributing to the community.
As an intern working in the 50/50 raffle with Orlando City Soccer, I also get to see a spark for our community on a much bigger stage. With the team recently receiving a promotion to the MLS (Major League Soccer), attendance rates have skyrocketed and the excitement and buzz has reached all corners of our city. In terms of my position, we raise money in raffle ticket sales that benefits the Orlando City Foundation, which gives back to inner city youth and develops their soccer programs, while also teaching them the importance of proper nutrition and wellness. Each and every time I work, I am able to play a helping hand in giving back to our community, which is a truly warming feeling.
The best way to get involved is to find a cause or a company/organization that you care about. Organizations devoted to social work are always welcoming in taking in volunteers, and almost always have openings for those interested. If you’re more interested in getting career-based work, simply reach out with an inquiry for volunteer work to said company. You would be surprised to see how many would be willing to have some extra hands for a day or event. Either way, communicate with whoever you’re working for! You never know who you will meet, and what that relationship could mean for you.
Whether you’re cleaning up a beach for a day, or assisting with event management at a football game, you are still getting involved in your community and you’re networking with people who may find opportunities for you in the future. Just don’t forget to always work hard and that the sole reason you are there is to help others.