Fresh from the ECAD Blog
Nursery Team Volunteers Nurture Adorable Puppies
Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers to accomplish their mission. Volunteers are so critical to nonprofit organizations that they would not be able to do their vital work without the power of volunteer work.
How crucial are volunteers to nonprofit organizations? As of 2021, studies have calculated the monetary value of volunteer hours at $28.54 per hour. While the actual amount varies from state to state, it’s clear that volunteers provide an enormous service to nonprofit organizations.
Volunteers lend their expertise, time, and energy to support various roles — as board members, helping with fundraising and marketing, providing administrative support, assisting with community outreach and events, etc.
Unique Volunteer Opportunities at ECAD
Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) also offers unique volunteer opportunities, including Home for the Weekend and Nursery Team, which focus on helping adorable puppies in training to become amazing Service Dogs to help people with disabilities. These two programs might be the best volunteer options for dog lovers!
Jennifer Yanko’s Nursery Team Volunteer Experience
Jennifer Yanko and her family started their ECAD volunteer journey in 2011 as home handlers and switched to being Nursery Team volunteers in 2015 when that program started. Her experience as a volunteer training Service Dogs began in the 90s when she resided in California and continued after relocating to Connecticut, after meeting Dale and Lu Picard when they spoke at the local library about their new organization (then named East Coast Assistance Dogs).
As an ECAD nursery team, Jen and her family take newly weaned pups (usually at ten weeks) into their home full-time for several months. They provided training, including housebreaking, crate, socialization, and basic commands. After several months, the pups return to ECAD for formal training until they reach age two.
When asked about her favorite aspects of being an ECAD Nursery Team member, she shared that always having a puppy is near the top of the list. They’re currently proud to be taking care of two puppies — French Fry and Yam — from the Furtatoes litter, bringing the total number of puppies they’ve worked with to 12.
She also shared how proud and honored they feel to know that they have played a part in raising these dogs so that they can help improve people's quality of life. People often ask if it’s hard to “give them up” when they have to go back, but we take them knowing from the beginning that these dogs will one day play a significant role in helping people live full and independent lives.
“We know they are destined for bigger and better things than just being someone's pet. It’s exciting and fulfilling to know we played a part in that. It's like sending your kid off to college. You’re sad to see them leave, but you're so proud of them and can't wait to see how they contribute to the world.”
There are also instances where when a dog might not “make it” as a Service Dog. Jen was quick to point out that that sometimes happens and is not a reflection of the nursery team member. The love and training nursery team members provide make them fantastic pets for lucky individuals and families.
11 Great Reasons To Volunteer
While volunteers are crucial to the operation of nonprofit organizations, volunteering also offers some fantastic benefits to individuals, including a few powerful health advantages.
1. Builds Strong Communities
As a volunteer, you make connections with other volunteers to tackle challenges facing your community. Even helping out with a small task can make a big difference in the lives of others.
2. Increases Socialization
Today, loneliness and social isolation are two severe epidemics leading to significant health risks. Although loneliness can affect anyone, older adults have a higher risk for loneliness and social isolation. Volunteering connects people and helps strengthen bonds between friends, family, and coworkers.
3. Improves Self-Esteem
Volunteering can be life-changing, especially for those who suffer from low self-esteem. Helping others and the community can boost confidence by providing a sense of accomplishment. Volunteering can also give you a sense of pride and identity.
4. Reduces Risk of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are frightening health concerns. However, research has shown that volunteering may reduce the risk of dementia. Further studies indicate that social service improves elasticity in the brain. So, volunteering may help people maintain the connections in their brains that often break down in patients with dementia as they age.
5. Improves Physical Health and Longevity
Volunteering can minimize chronic pain symptoms and reduce the risk of heart disease. Research shows that volunteers are healthier and have a lower mortality rate than those who do not volunteer. One study found that people who volunteer over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the US.
6. Provides a Sense of Purpose and Direction
Volunteering can add new meaning to the lives of young people who haven’t yet found their path and older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse. Regardless of your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.
7. Increases Happiness
Contemporary social neuroscience research shows that when people donate to charity, either financially or through volunteering, the mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, is triggered. As a result, the brain releases feel-good chemicals, spurring you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.”
8. Helps Counteract the Effects of Stress, Anger, Anxiety, and Depression
Few things relieve stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can profoundly affect your overall psychological well-being and help bolster your support system, which can protect you from anxiety and depression.
9. Increases Self-Confidence
Doing good for others and the community provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. When you feel better about yourself, you are more likely to positively view your life and future goals.
10. Advances Your Career
Volunteering provides opportunities to build and practice valuable job skills used in the workplace — teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management, and organization. Whether you’re considering a new career or simply interested in upgrading your skills, volunteering can include valuable training.
11. Improves School and College Experience
Young people still in school obtain social skills and develop awareness as volunteers. It can also boost college applications and job resumes. Volunteering can also help college students improve their job search post-graduation.
Become an ECAD Volunteer
Based on her experience, Jennifer Yanko explained that she would encourage people to volunteer for ECAD. “We know from the beginning the potential these dogs have, and it’s exciting to think of them becoming service dogs and knowing we played a part in that.”
Volunteering your skills, time, and resources is a fantastic way to make a difference, help others, and enhance your life! There are multiple benefits of volunteering. If you have doubts about volunteering, you might be surprised by how much you’ll gain. Find out how you can help as an ECAD volunteer!
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