When I moved home to York from New York City in 2010 (after betting my Dad $10,000 that I would never, ever do so a decade before), I made a calculated decision about my future. I decided that, if this was where I was going to spend the rest of my life and raise my family, then I wanted to be a part of making York a great place to live.
You see, the York I returned to in 2010 was not the York I left in 1999. There was an exciting undercurrent of change bubbling, a real indicator of our city’s potential, and it seemed to be young people who were pushing the change. I jumped in with both feet.
I joined groups like York Young Professionals, attending socials and meeting other engaged people like myself. I started volunteering for organizations whose missions spoke to me, like the Cultural Alliance for York County, who supports arts and culture in our county, and Downtown Inc., the Main Street Organization for Downtown York. I applied for programs like Mentorship York through Leadership York, where I connected with a true mentor that I continue to have a relationship with today. Rather than just talking about what York should have or what “someone” should do, I made them happen, working with friends to create events like foodstruck, York’s First Food Truck Festival, and Restaurant Week York.
There’s a ton of research on the benefits of volunteering, including greater longevity, lower rates of depression, a lower incidence of heart disease and higher functional ability. A United Healthgroup Study showed that 76% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months say that volunteering has made them feel healthier. And 94% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months say that volunteering improves their mood. It’s true—Volunteering makes us feel better. And while we’re feeling better, we’re also helping all kinds of other people who benefit from our volunteer efforts feel better too. Everybody wins when we volunteer.
Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people age 20 to 24 are the least likely to volunteer. The age group above them isn’t much better. However, the Millennial Impact Report shared that “77% of millennials said they’re more likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause.” The same number of people “preferred to perform cause work with groups of fellow employees as opposed to doing independent service projects.”
Similar to the way they give money, millennials do volunteer when it integrates with their whole life and their aspiration. A few reasons that millennials are more likely to volunteer include things like enriching their personal life by meeting new friends, finding a romantic partner, or finding interesting activities. Millennials are also drawn into opportunities to aid their career trajectory by diversifying their experiences, practice new skills, and building their professional network.
For me, getting involved in my hometown as a young person literally changed the trajectory of my career… and my life. Today, I’m a York City resident, having moved Downtown two years ago. I own a Downtown business, York City Pretzel Company at 39 W. Market Street. I serve on the boards of my children’s schools, York Academy and York Day Nursery, and on numerous committees for organizations who share my passion for York.
I’m also leading a brand new initiative in York County: Give Local York, the first ever Big Give Day in York, happening on May 4, 2018. On that day, for the first time in our history, York County will be united in a celebration of generosity as we collectively—as a community—raise $1 million dollars for hundreds of nonprofits whose work benefits our region.
Here’s how it works: For 24 hours—from midnight to 11:59pm—on May 4, donors visit www.givelocalyork.org to make secure donations to their favorite local nonprofit organizations. The minimum donation is $10 and there is no maximum. Every dollar donated to participating nonprofits will be enhanced with bonus funds provided by Give Local York sponsors—making donor dollars stretch further. The goal is simple: inspire York countians to come together, show pride in their community and contribute to support the life-changing work of local nonprofits.
Purpose is empowering. Engagement is contagious. There is still plenty of good work to be done in our shared quest of making York County a fantastic place to live, work and play. I invite you to join me and the many others who are doing this work every day. I promise you’ll make some new friends, feel a renewed connection to the place you call home, and hey—you may even feel healthier in the process.
Sound good? Here are some places to get started:
- United Way of York County
- Leadership York
- York Young Professionals
- Give Local York
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
Hope to see you around York! I’m usually the one in the “Volunteer” t-shirt.
You can find out more about Meagan on her LinkedIn Page.