Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness was becoming a significant epidemic in the United States, affecting many lives. But what if I told you that a potential cure for this pervasive issue might be as simple as showing kindness to others? Research has shown that volunteering offers a powerful remedy to improve our overall health, combat loneliness, and strengthen our social connections.
By engaging in volunteering activities, we have a straightforward and impactful way to infuse our lives with purpose and significance. The act of reaching out with compassion and providing assistance can have a profound influence on an individual’s happiness, effectively preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
A Remarkable Presence In Volunteering & Philanthropy
Junayed Jahangir, a seasoned member of United Way Suncoast’s LINC (Lead, Impact, Network, and Change) program, has proven to be a remarkable force in the world of volunteering. Fondly known as JJ, he has dedicated his time and efforts to numerous kit-building activities, benefiting children in need. His passion for making a positive impact does not end there, as he has also played an instrumental role in the Sustainability and Innovation Committee for over a year.
Junayed found motivation to volunteer and help the community through a personal story. “I moved to America alone at the age of 16, and for the past five years, the Tampa Bay Area has been my home,” JJ said. “Being the sole representative of my extended family, navigating through life’s typical stages presented numerous challenges. The emergence of COVID and the resulting financial hardships only added to the complexity of my circumstances. However, despite these rough times, I was fortunate to receive immense support from friends and mentors within both the Tampa Bay and USF communities.”
JJ enthusiastically shared how his volunteering experiences with United Way have led him to cross paths with many extraordinary individuals. Among them, it’s the admirable mentors and peers he cherishes most, all of whom he met through his involvement with United Way Suncoast. Furthermore, JJ finds volunteering with United Way Suncoast enriching and fulfilling. The diverse range of activities allows him to choose a cause he’s passionate about. “Collaborating with inclusive volunteers from different backgrounds for a common purpose is truly gratifying,” JJ said.
A Critical Public Health Crisis Affecting All Ages
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy labels loneliness as a national epidemic, referring to it as an “underappreciated public health crisis” among Americans. While we might associate loneliness with older Americans, it is essential to recognize that younger individuals and college students also experience feelings of loneliness.
According to a Cigna study, 61% of Americans reported increased loneliness (up from 54% in 2018). Gen Z and Millennials experienced higher loneliness rates than older age groups. Heavy social media users felt lonelier, indicating a potentially false sense of community, as face-to-face interactions correlated with lower loneliness levels.
The Power In Volunteering
Autumn Pandolfo, VP of Philanthropic Engagement at United Way Suncoast, emphasizes that volunteering offers numerous benefits for individuals and communities. It provides a sense of purpose, and connection, and expands social networks. Witnessing the impact of one’s efforts boosts self-esteem and well-being. Studies also show volunteering improves physical health, including blood pressure, immune function, and resilience.
United Way Suncoast encourages the community to serve together to improve lives and create lasting community change. The activities include monthly engagement opportunities, aligning with our mission of elevating early learning, energizing middle school and high school students and empowering community members and families.
United Way Suncoast values time and talent as much as it values donations. We know the power of a community united for the purpose of uplifting one another. Since our earliest beginning in 1924, we’ve provided opportunities for people to volunteer and support the community, resulting in a centennial of true impact.
If you would like to learn more about United Way Suncoast’s volunteer opportunities, please click here.