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Reasons to Give

Tech. Sgt. Ashley Mooney, functional systems manager with the 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron, stands with one of many gifts for the Angel Tree. Maryland Air National Guard members contributed to a Salvation Army program to help less fortunate families. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher)

Tech. Sgt. Ashley Mooney, functional systems manager with the 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron, stands with one of many gifts for the Angel Tree. Maryland Air National Guard members contributed to a Salvation Army program to help less fortunate families. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. David Speicher)

Baltimore -- As the end of 2014 approaches, many of you will begin thinking about your New Year's resolutions. Some of you will recommit to healthy living as you prepare for another fitness assessment. Others will focus on education and training to help advance your careers.  Both of those are great goals and I recommend that you actively pursue them. Still, I would like you to consider adding one more resolution that will help with both of those goals and more.

Volunteering can improve your health and enhance your career. I know many of the airmen in our wing already know these benefits firsthand. We had 15 volunteers from the 175th Maintenance Group serve meals to homeless veterans at The Baltimore Station in October. The 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron tries to organize a volunteer opportunity once a month and some members have been serving through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program since 2011. The program continues to grow and this year members have helped with 18 Thanksgiving baskets, 40 angel trees, and 19 stockings.  I am sure there are many more members of our wing volunteering and reaping the various benefits donating their time and talent to helping those in need.

One benefit is improved health.  In the military, we always need to be thinking about our health. Of course, it is imperative that we pass our fitness assessment but there are more reasons than that to be health conscious. We perform and feel better when our body is fit. Volunteering can do the same thing. States with higher volunteer rates have overall better health and lower rates of heart disease, according to a study from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The study, titled "The Health Benefits of Volunteering," also showed that volunteers live longer. They have increased mental health and lower rates of depression.

I love Booker T. Washington's quote, "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else." By helping others, you are helping yourself grow professionally. There are a variety of ways to give back in your community that can enhance your career. One out of every five hiring managers in the U.S. agreed they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience, according to 2014 LinkedIn research. Volunteering allows you to meet new people, thereby helping you make networking contacts. You also learn or develop skills that will improve your résumé.  Over 40 percent of LinkedIn managers consider volunteer work just as important as paid jobs when hiring.

The United Way lists many benefits of volunteering like making a difference in someone's life or feeling valued. You might improve the well-being of someone in need and build your self-confidence along the way. It is well-worth your time and effort. Master Sgt. Brandon Mooney, a logistics planner for the175th Logistics Readiness Squadron, who helped start the base Angel Tree program, knows this very well.

"LRS got involved because we enjoy helping others and wanted to give back to the community," said Mooney. "The volunteers experience the joy of helping others in need and it is helping us build our team work."

Maryland Air National Guard volunteers have also helped with Habitat for Humanity and even helped clean up a local pet cemetery with the help of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who represents the Fifth District.  You could volunteer through Wreaths Across America and put wreaths on veterans grave sites, like members from the wing's communications and comptroller flights did December 13, 2014. There are more opportunities to serve meals to homeless men at The Baltimore Station coming up next month and into 2015, too.

"Most of these guys staying at Baltimore Station are veterans who have fallen on hard times or have been battling an assortment of demons - including drug addiction," said 2nd Lt. Michael Gillis, 175th Maintenance Group. "We wanted to do something to help our former brothers-in-arms and the uniqueness of this program is something that provides real help."

Even if you haven't heard of any opportunity to volunteer that suits you, I encourage you to still do some research. There are too many benefits to pass up. If you were ever a benefactor of a non-profit's service or assistance, I'd recommend giving back to that organization as a way to say thanks and show your appreciation.  Even if you think you are not qualified to serve, let a volunteer coordinator decide for you.

"Some programs require skill sets and others don't," explained Mooney. "Find a program that you are passionate about and lend a hand."

"Take a look around your community. Find a problem - big or small - that you would like to fix," said Gillis, who likes to eat with the veterans at The Baltimore Station and hear their stories. "Gather some friends and co-workers. And go make a difference."

I encourage you to commit to volunteering in 2015. If you are already volunteering consistently, I applaud your service.  If you aren't yet, do it for your health. Do it for your career. Do it because it is simply the right thing to do. It is important that we give back to the communities where we live and work. I am confident you will not regret your efforts. Your efforts can make a difference in your life and the lives of others. It might be your best New Year's resolution yet. I am excited to see how the 175th Wing can continue to excel as a community leader in the years to come.