Guest Blog: Stephanie Schiro, United Way Community Resource Associate, Explains How Michiganders Can Get Involved in Their Communities

Stephanie Schiro, United Way Community Resource Associate
Stephanie Schiro, United Way Community Resource Associate

Volunteering has long been a pillar of the United Way. Many years ago, Consumers Energy recognized the opportunity to become supporters of the United Way, not only through generous donations of money but also with time and talents.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, it’s important to reflect on all the ways volunteering can benefit our wonderful state. National Volunteer Week is a time for individuals to take action and get engaged in their communities. It’s a way to demonstrate nationally that communities can work together, face challenges and accomplish goals.

When individuals volunteer, they are:

  • Uniting communities
  • Caring about their neighborhood
  • Encouraging others to become invested
  • Meeting new friends
  • Learning new skills
  • Making lasting changes to their environment

Volunteering can also bring about understanding of community needs, leading to empathy and a better awareness of the struggle our neighbors face. Because one volunteer hour is worth roughly $23, organizations can spend more money and resources on local improvements.

 Consumers Energy Employees Support Volunteerism in Michigan

There are so many ways United Way has benefited from Consumers Energy employees generously giving their time, talents and resources. Across the state, its employees:

  • Sit on United Way (and a lot of other nonprofit) boards, influencing and supporting our mission to “improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.”
  • Engage in our annual campaigns on an executive level (helping plan and coordinate strategies) and at a one-on-one level as ambassadors to their co-workers.
  • Are members of our community solution teams, deciding how our campaign funds are allocated between programs.

I have no doubt that the future of volunteerism in Michigan will continue to thrive and grow as Consumers Energy and the United Way work together to connect our communities for the common good.

Volunteering has taught me how to give back in creative and new ways, appreciate the uniqueness of my community, and how to step outside of my comfort zone to grasp the hand of a neighbor in need. Volunteering is also a proven stress reliever, which I have found to be very true in my life. When I am volunteering, I can let the stressors of daily life slide away and focus on the project I am working on. It puts my problems into perspective and reminds me to let the little things go and focus on the big picture.

One of my favorite volunteer experiences was when I helped with the Downtown Development Authority’s Spring Beautification in Downtown Jackson. There were so many different types of people coming together to clean up downtown. From young professionals to families with young children to individuals that were physically and mentally disabled, there was a job for every single person that wanted to help. We were able to come together on a gorgeous spring afternoon and create a beautiful park that everyone could enjoy.

 Where Should You Volunteer?

For Michigan residents that are looking to get involved with their community, I would recommend finding your local volunteer center. Local volunteer centers will have a comprehensive view of what projects are available in your area. For example, here in Jackson County, our volunteer portal has over 40 opportunities ranging from one time projects to weekly commitments. You can also check out the state volunteer portal.

If you have an idea for a volunteer project, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local nonprofits! There are so many instances where nonprofits want to begin a new project but don’t have the right people to initiate it. If you have specific skills and the time to volunteer, make a call and see who could benefit from your expertise.

Stephanie Schiro is the Community Resource Associate at the United Way of Jackson County in Jackson, Michigan. She is a Jackson native, having graduated from Western High School, Jackson Community College and Spring Arbor University with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Stephanie is actively involved with the Jackson Young Professionals, the Women’s Leadership Council, the Jackson County Freedom Coalition and Energizing Education.