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Season of giving at Oak Crest

Experts say volunteering benefits go both ways

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November 26th, 2013
Season of giving at Oak Crest
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While others are crossing off their holiday gift lists and fighting crowds at the mall, Oak Crest residents are getting into the true spirit of the season by helping those in need. Giving back and helping others, to me that s what Christmas is all about, says Ann France, a member of the Salvation Army Women s Auxiliary who lives at the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community. Ann coordinates an annual stocking stuffer drive at Oak Crest to benefit the Salvation Army, a tradition that was started more than a decade ago by Oak Crest residents Irene Eaton and Gladys Reed. Over the last 15 years, Oak Crest volunteers have donated thousands of Christmas stockings stuffed with toys, clothing, and necessities for area children. I see firsthand the impact this has in the community, says Ann. In the first week of October, we had already enrolled 1,750 families to receive donations, which equals about 8,000 children. I like helping people who are out there trying to help themselves. Many of them are working but just aren t able to make ends meet. They just need a little extra help. In order to raise the $3,200 needed to stuff the stockings, Ann enlists Oak Crest volunteers to collect money outside of the community s on-site restaurants. The people here are so generous. They really look forward to being a part of this and giving what they can toward the stockings, says Ann. In November, volunteers stuffed the mesh stockings with items purchased from the Dollar Tree off Joppa Road, in Parkville. We set up tables with the items in the order we would like them to be placed in the stockings, and the volunteers stuffed them, says Ann. We ve done it so many times now, it only takes us about 45 minutes to stuff 400 stockings. Over the years, Ann says she has received many letters of thanks from people who receive the stockings. It really makes Christmas meaningful, Ann says.

Big difference for small price

For June Earles, the holidays are one of many opportunities to help feed the hungry something she and more than 100 Oak Crest residents do year round. As the leader of Oak Crest s Our Daily Bread program, June coordinates the monthly food drive. I started working with Our Daily Bread through my church before I moved to Oak Crest, says June. After I moved, I asked around to see if anyone would be interested in getting our own program together here at Oak Crest. We started out a few years ago with 33 people donating casseroles, and now we have 111 volunteers who participate. Two pounds of hot dogs, three pounds of beans, and a little brown sugar are three of the key ingredients in the easy, no-bake casserole. Volunteers simply purchase and mix the ingredients together in a pan provided by Our Daily Bread; cover with aluminum foil; and place in their freezer until collection day. Each casserole feeds seven people, so for less than $3 and minimal effort, you can make a big difference, says June.

Everybody wins

A new study by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute for Sustainable Health supports Ann s and June s sentiments that giving makes you feel good. The report finds that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental, and emotional health. Doing Good Is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study reveals that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer report that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, and 78% report that volunteering lowers their levels of stress helping them feel better than adults who do not volunteer. The study reveals four key benefits of volunteering that make a positive impact on people s health: Health volunteers say that they feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally Stress volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress levels Purpose volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and to others Engagement volunteers are more informed health care consumers, and more engaged and involved in managing their health Oak Crest Community Resources Manager Nadine Wellington and her staff offer support to the many different clubs and volunteer groups within the community and says they are fortunate to have a core group of dedicated and engaged volunteers who think of others not only around the holidays, but year-round. These volunteers give tirelessly of their time, energy, and creative talents as well as financial contributions, says Wellington. Their generosity is an inspiration to us all.

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