Ever since I was little I have enjoyed volunteering. When I was younger I loved helping my mother, an elementary school teacher, design and put up her classroom bulletin boards. When I got a little older I loved to organize just about anything in the housespools of thread, spices in the cupboard and shirts in a closet. I know, I was a weird kid.

As I hit my teen years and was able to drive I found myself joining clubs that emphasized volunteering. Any task that had to do with creating, organizing or teaching had my name written all over it. I taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, and outside the church I helped with neighborhood cleanup days, offered free tutoring and wrote for the school newspaper.

As an adult I found myself on the board of several different types of organizationsmy neighborhood Homeowners’ Association; Pet Pals of Texas, which helps low-income seniors keep their pets; and Girl Scouts of the USA (where I wore many hats).

Sometimes I meet other people who love to volunteer and it almost seems like there’s a “genetic marker” that causes us to be this way. Others I meet look at me like I have two heads when I mention volunteering. I mean, why in the world would anyone do work, for someone else, and not get paid for it? What was I thinking?

But as almost anyone who volunteers knows, the rewards from volunteering aren’t monetary. We get them through the smiles on children’s faces. We find them when seniors, their voices laced with gratitude, thank you for giving them free pet food so that their pets can eat for another month without the seniors having to give up a meal. We get them when we see a Special Olympics athlete cross the finish line, raising their hands triumphantly.

When I started working at Floris UMC I was introduced to a plethora of volunteering opportunities. While my schedule doesn’t allow me to do everything, I have found ways to give of my time and talents. One of my favorite volunteer opportunities has been the Chocolate Festival. Within one month of my move to Northern Virginia I found myself at the festival, meeting people, helping and finding my way. Within weeks I had helped with a GRACE Ministries event and a Student Ministries event at Floris UMC and even joined a public library board.

Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, try something new, give of myself and have a lot of fun. This year’s Chocolate Festival is going to be better than ever! I’ll be “working” (aka having fun) at a Chocolate Tasting Table. Have you ever seen chocolate bars with strange ingredients but didn’t want to buy a whole bar just to take a taste? Now you’ll have the chance to try various types of chocolate, one nibble at a time! And for you really brave folks, we’ll also have chocolate-covered ants, crickets and worms for you to try! Yes, worms! Now, doesn’t that sound fun?

It’s not too late for you to volunteer at one of our upcoming events here at Floris UMC. GRACE Ministries needs volunteers the first weekend of every month, and our huge Family Easter Festival is coming up on March 12. If you attend Floris UMC or even just live in the Herndon area, think about giving a few hours to help your church and your community while having some fun. If you don’t, find another way to volunteer near you. I guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a very pleasant feeling in your heart.

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