Enrich Your Life by Volunteering
February 21, 2019
“If you become a helper of hearts, springs of wisdom will flow from your heart.”
Volunteering offers help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the communities in which we live. But, the benefits of giving back can be even greater for the volunteer. Volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, provide a sense of purpose, create social opportunities, expand your network, and teach new skills.
Since 1989, United Through Reading has connected more than two million military family members facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together.
The following is a personal story from a Sailor assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) who volunteers with United Through Reading as an Active Duty Volunteer Coordinator:
“United Through Reading has had a huge impact on individual Sailors such as myself, as well as my command as a whole. My journey with UTR started in 2015 on my first deployment with the USS Theodore Roosevelt. I was new to the Navy and this was my first time being deployed away from my two little girls, and the separation was almost unbearable. I was alone, in a new place, and my heart was broken to leave my kids.
I had learned about UTR just prior to deployment and was so excited to have been able to record a couple stories that I sent to my girls right before I left. I remember the first story that I read was, “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. I cried before, during, and after making the recording. It was emotional, heartfelt and tough, but I wanted to leave my girls with a video of Mommy reading to them. After I got to the ship, I saw a link to sign up to record stories with UTR. I was so excited that I immediately typed in my name and was on my way to recording over 10 books for my girls in that deployment alone. Seeing me on those videos helped my girls feel a little less lonely without me and created a connection that helped our reintegration when I got home. They needed me, and I was able to give them the feeling that I was with them by reading.
I loved the experience so much, that on my next deployment, I decided to volunteer to help other Sailors make videos for their loved ones left behind while still making time to record my own stories. My life was so enriched being able to send videos home that I wanted to share that with everyone that would listen!!
I am a huge advocate for the program and love volunteering my time to put smiles on kids faces when they see Mommy or Daddy reading them a story. The program helps to connect us to our kids and family even while we are out here serving our country. Every Sailor who has come through who I helped record has told me time and time again that what they sent home was more than a book and video, it was a bonding moment between them and their families.
To this day, I find the books and recordings in my home and it brings back the warm memories of my girls feeling close to me even while I was thousands of miles of away. I can’t thank your program enough and I hope we can continue to provide the service to our Military. This is not just a program we want, it is a program we absolutely need to build strong family relationships while loved ones are away.”
United Through Reading presents a number of volunteer opportunities – for service members, military family members, and civilians alike. We are always looking for volunteers to help connect military families during any time of separation at commands or for special events.
In San Diego, we are actively seeking volunteers for our new Mobile Story Station that brings UTR directly to military personnel at military and community events. Each service member leaves the event with the recording they made on the Story Station and the book they read to give to a child in their life. This free service is available to all military personnel and their families.
There is no experience necessary to volunteer with UTR. Our staff will provide all the training that you need to help connect military families.