GUEST COLUMN: Finding community in volunteerism

By Sarah Mayle

As I look back on 2022, there is no question I am excited to share statistics detailing the growth of Volunteers United. (They are amazing!) But it is the spirit of volunteerism in this community – the new faces and the steady ones who have come to lend a hand – that are cause for the ultimate celebration. It is those generous faces that make up something we are fortunate to have - a feeling of community.

I see Dan, who works full-time and came in to meet with me to learn more about how he could help. He has steadily volunteered at various events for months - most recently recruiting a friend to collect campaign signs, an endeavor that ended up being in the dark, wind, sleet, and snow. I see Hala, whose daughter is in preschool now and she wants to volunteer during the handful of hours she has free. I see a group of kind ladies from Brazil, who have been eager to help wherever possible with great enthusiasm. I see Laurie, Lyn, and Christine – three generations who have made a commitment to volunteer together.

Volunteers United is the volunteer center for United Way of Hancock County, which has been steadily growing – both in numbers and that sense of community - since its revitalization in 2020. We connect volunteers with opportunities to serve their community in ways that fit with their skills, passions, and availability. Volunteers who register have the option to meet with me to discover their best fit for volunteering. You can serve as an individual or as part of a group, and if you are nervous about getting started, one of our Volunteer Ambassadors will serve alongside you.

Being a Volunteer Ambassador is a new concept this year, one that developed from a group of very committed volunteers. Volunteer Ambassadors are aligned with United Way’s mission, meet monthly on the Volunteers United Committee, are happy to serve alongside new volunteers, are official with a nametag, and host and help plan new programming - monthly volunteer events for 2023.

Our monthly volunteering program is called “Volunteer Connections - Making a difference by building friendships and serving others.” It is a response to a need I hear with increasing frequency in my role, that people are searching for that sense of community. What better way to find it through volunteering – a built-in bonding experience, an opportunity for like-minded people to do something they enjoy and make a difference.

Each quarter, those who volunteer for any of the three months of Volunteer Connections will be invited to a thank you mixer at the United Way, another chance to get together and celebrate a job well done.

Community through volunteering is gaining strength in Hancock County. We have incredible momentum. (Time for the stats.)

  • Volunteers United saw a 50 percent increase in the number of volunteer hours served from 2021 to 2022 jumping from 7,077 hours to 10,063 hours.
  • There was a 360 percent increase in group volunteering, which does not include Days of Caring. Last year, 10 groups signed up to volunteer. This year, we placed 46 groups!
  • In 2021, we had about 700 people sign up for Days of Caring, a bi-annual, corporate group volunteering event. In 2022, more than 1,200 people came out in force to help.
  • In 2022, we sent about 1,800 pieces of cheer to local care facilities as part of our Senior Cheer program, more than double 2021.

We hope to continue moving forward building community by meeting more new faces in 2023. By getting involved you can meet our Volunteer Ambassadors or may aspire to become one. You could meet Beth or Missy, who inspire and have made volunteering a way of life; or Maria, who delivers all of our Senior Cheer; or Madison, who is up for just about anything volunteering. There’s Betsy, who faithfully writes an intriguing newsletter for seniors throughout the year.

Who knows? If you’re lucky, you may even meet Charlene, who always makes you smile and has the greatest passion for paper cutting you could ever imagine.

To register with Volunteers United, visit

Mayle is the Volunteer Coordinator for United Way of Hancock County.

(This column appeared in the Findlay Courier on Dec. 31, 2022).