With the holiday season upon us and the New Year just around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on the gratitude I feel for our community. I think most will agree this has been a year like no other—certainly in my lifetime.

While we’ve seen our share of challenges, it heartens me to see how we have all pulled together to make our community stronger.

Because we are a co-op, volunteerism and giving back are a part of who we are. Several of our line workers are volunteer firefighters and first responders, putting their lives at risk to help others. Other employees coach youth sports, assist in school productions, or serve on local boards of various civic groups and non-profits.

JOEMC offers employees flexibility in their schedules to accommodate these volunteer opportunities. We believe co-op volunteerism is an investment in our community. Enabling our employees to donate their time and expertise, they are contributing to making our community stronger.

I look at volunteerism as the gift that keeps on giving. While it’s difficult to quantify the impact that volunteers have, I know they make a tremendous difference in our community and make our corner of the world a better place. Many organizations depend on volunteers to fulfill their mission. Volunteers fill in gaps and spread joy and compassion through their efforts. Even assisting with the smallest tasks can significantly impact the lives of people, animals, or an organization in need. Often a big commitment or special skills are not needed, just someone who cares.

I hope you’ll consider volunteering. Give an organization or cause that you care about the gift of your compassion, time, and talent. In addition to the organization and the community benefiting from your efforts, you will receive a gift as well. Not only will you enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you are helping a good cause, but you will also likely make new friends, expand your social network, strengthen existing skills, or learn a new one.

Volunteering may provide additional dimension and purpose to your life. In the process, you will be a role model for your family because your commitment will offer a powerful lesson to your children. It will show them first-hand how one person can make a big difference and strengthen the community in which they live.

The gift of volunteerism is a gift that will continue giving all year long. So, this holiday season, consider starting a new tradition—give the gift of time.