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Community Service on the North Shore

Feb 26, 2021

If you watch the evening news, you might think that the world is going to hell in the proverbial hand-basket.  But, I see a different world when I look at our community.  I see generosity. I see hard work. I see goodness of spirit.

Recently, I read a report that said that there are hundreds of non-profit organizations on the North Shore.  These groups are doing amazing work to make our homes and communities better.  From the most basic needs of housing and nutrition to the loftier aspirations of art and historic preservation, the North Shore is home to an amazing array of philanthropic groups.

We are never too young to do good works.  Every December, the Ipswich High School Interact Club hosts a “Jingle Bell Walk” and toy drive, redesigning the event in 2020 due to the pandemic. A young woman from Beverly recently earned her “Gold Award” from Girl Scouts and a young man from Marblehead was awarded his Eagle Scout award. Both of these honors require a significant amount of community service.

Similarly, our ability to help out doesn’t evaporate as we age. SeniorCare’s RSVP Volunteers of the North Shore, an AmeriCorps Seniors grantee, has over 400 volunteers actively involved in service to area agencies—providing critically needed assistance. Volunteer drivers have provided thousands of contact-free deliveries of Meals on Wheels lunches to homebound elders this past year and have driven elders to hundreds of critical medical appointments, all while adhering to rigorous safety precautions.

The business community of the North Shore gives back every single day.  Many large employers have charitable foundations specifically designed to support a healthy and thriving community. In addition, many business leaders are members of service organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Lions or the Elks, and many serve on the Boards of non-profits.

Grassroots groups are constantly emerging as needs are identified.  Generous Gardeners started out as a group of gardeners who swapped and shared their plants.  It has grown to a group that now cares for dozens of public spaces throughout Cape Ann. Their work results in the spectacular display of thousands of flowers each year on Gloucester Harborfront promenade at Stacy Boulevard (Rt 127).

Throughout the North Shore, when the pandemic began and PPE was in short supply, crafters started producing masks and other critically needed supplies, delivering to hospitals and to private groups, often utilizing social media to coordinate delivery. Many of us were able to make use of these home made masks and leave the “real” masks to the first responders and other essential workers. 

It’s obvious that the community benefits from volunteerism and philanthropy.  But, did you know that volunteering can make you healthier?

Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. But volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

In a report published by United Health Group, over three-quarters of people who volunteered reported that volunteering made them feel physically healthier. Volunteers were more likely than non-volunteers to consider themselves in excellent or very good health, and they were more likely to say that their health improved over the past 12 months. There was an even stronger connection between volunteering and mental/emotional health. The report went on to say that volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional wellbeing including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with life.  (http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com)

I guess the point of this is that we can all contribute to our community, while taking care of ourselves at the same time. Whether coaching the little league team, joining a planning committee for a local festival or parade, or simply buying a box of cookies from a Girl Scout troop on Facebook, we can all do good in our own way.