As a CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, I know firsthand the value of volunteers. April is National Volunteer Month and I want to salute those individuals who contribute in so many ways to our communities.

As an organization that serves youth, we would not be able to deliver our program to more than 26,000 girls across northern New Jersey with the dedicated men and women who selflessly share their time and talents with the girls they mentor. 

Think about all the volunteers around you. Volunteers contribute to first aid squads, fire departments, youth sports, local animal shelters, youth organizations like Girl Scouts and 4-H, libraries and of course, hospitals to name just a few. On average, 25 percent of the American population volunteer to make a difference, contributing more than 52 hours a year. If they were paid, statistics show that American volunteers would collectively earn $193 billion a year for their hard work. 

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Sadly, the amount of people volunteering is declining. The main reason is that dual working families have less time to give outside of the home. This decline is not only harmful for non-profit organizations, but for individuals as well. The lack of interaction with others creates more isolation and poor physical and mental health. 

There are many reasons to volunteer your time. Volunteers are rewarded with a sense of purpose, connect to others in their community, increase their self-confidence, combat stress and anxiety, alleviate depression and overall get happier because they are giving back. There is no greater feeling than the gratitude from others who benefit from your hard work. 

Volunteering can also help with career aspirations. Many companies and businesses like to hire employees who are socially engaged. In addition, hard and soft skills are something that can be added to a resume: training, money management, supervisory skills of other volunteers, public speaking, and computer and organizational skills. 

While all these skills are important, I think the best reasons to volunteer are that volunteers are sorely needed and greatly appreciated. In these current times of social distancing, many volunteers are in their homes sewing masks for health care professionals, organizing food drives, and assisting home-bound neighbors.  Volunteers are the life blood of our society. Non-profit organizations simply couldn’t carry out their mission or do their work without dedicated women and men who want to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s a few hours a week, or a few hours a month, volunteerism is important to us all.