Giving Back Brings Joy to Local Volunteers

Friday, December 19, 2014

It is always better to give than to receive and for good reason: it does a body good. During the holiday season, acts of kindness come in many forms, and volunteering is one act that is beneficial to those who receive while potentially improving the giver's health at the same time.

In fact, research proves that giving makes people feel good because it releases endorphins, a chemical in the brain that creates positive emotions. In a 2006 study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health studied the functional MRIs of subjects who gave to charities and found that giving released endorphins, creating more positive feelings for the giver.

Barbara Rush, Ph.D.,a local psychologist with Hillcrest Behavioral Health Services, believes that random acts of kindness have a positive impact on one’s emotional well-being as well. In some cases, volunteering can cause a person to live longer, according to a 2005 study published in “The Journal of Health Psychology” by Harris and Thoresen that claims older Americans who volunteer frequently have higher rates of longevity and report less disability.

“From a clinical perspective, giving back is a good step in creating positive emotional habits,” said Rush. “Volunteering is sometimes a treatment goal because people can get outside their world and gain another perspective.”

For one local volunteer, these sentiments ring true. Siggy Little, a retired school secretary of 42 years of Benwood, has found much reward since she began volunteering at Ohio Valley Medical Center six years ago. Little walks throughout the hospital offering free coffee and tea to patients, visitors, and employees in the hospital.

“My favorite thing about transporting the coffee cart around the hospital is meeting people, and often times, just offering them a cup of coffee brings a smile to their face,” said Little. “I know that my job is more than offering a beverage. For some it means they don't have to leave their loved-one's side or just need someone to talk to while waiting for a doctor.”

Little said that she and her late husband talked about volunteering after their retirements, and now she finds peace in her volunteer job and believes she is helping people by just being present for them.

“I just listen to people, and I believe that sometimes that means more to me than it does them,” said Little. “I love to meet new people.”

Rush affirms that studies show that experiences bring people joy rather than things.

“There’s a social network that occurs within the volunteering world because these volunteers begin to meet other like-minded people or may develop more social networks of people that the he or she wouldn’t have met otherwise in other walks of their life. Additionally, it gives them a structure and routine,” said Rush.

While this newly found network motivates people like Little to continue volunteering, others find joy in volunteering because they don't want to lose their existing social connections.

When Judy Parks walked out the doors of East Ohio Regional Hospital after 42 years of employment in the hospital's information systems department, she soon returned two days later to start volunteering.

“I made friends with my many coworkers through the years, and I would miss seeing them on a regular basis,” said Parks. “I love people and couldn't imagine leaving these relationships behind.”

Every Thursday, Parks can be found taking the hospitality cart of beverages to various departments, nursing floors, the main lobby and waiting room areas offering patients, their family members, and visitors a refreshment.

“Retirement to me means to not waste a second of my time,” said Parks. “I want to give back to others and to stay busy doing the things I love, which includes meeting new people and staying connected with friends.”

Ohio Valley Medical Center, located in Wheeling, W. Va., and East Ohio Regional Hospital, located in Martins Ferry, Ohio, are a 340-bed combined organization with more than 1,600 employees providing the area’s only comprehensive orthopedic centers of excellence, behavioral and mental health services and board certified emergency services on both sides of the Ohio River. We are the Ohio Valley's community hospitals.



IMAGE CAPTION: Siggy Little of Benwood gives back by delivering free coffee to patients and visitors at OVMC every Thursday.