EVERY NEW YEAR'S at the stroke of 12 we resolve to better ourselves in some way. We promise ourselves that we'll eat better, or actually use our gym membership. Most of the time, our commitments last for about a month, at which point we realize we're just too busy to follow through with our lofty goals.
So this year I would like to offer a New Year's resolution of a different kind, a resolution that I hope all young adults in Philadelphia will take to heart. I wholeheartedly believe that this is a resolution that everyone is capable of both committing to and carrying out throughout the entire year.
Resolve to volunteer in 2008.
As the Volunteer Coordinator for Project H.O.M.E and a 30-year-old native Philadelphian who just bought her first house, I am keenly aware of all the responsibilities and obligations that make the prospect of volunteering as a young adult seem daunting and unrealistic. This is a time in our lives when we are focused on our careers or building a family, and there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to take on an extra commitment.
Perhaps this explains why nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that people in their early 20s are the least likely group to volunteer. Young Pennsylvanians are particularly lethargic - the Corporation for National and Community Service found that Pennsylvania's young adults rank only 28th in the nation for their volunteering rates, and in the city of Philadelphia, only 20 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 35 are volunteering.
Yes, we're all busy, but the crisis of homelessness won't wait for us to find some time. Homelessness is rising on both a local and national level, and it is up to the current generation of young adults to take on this issue and help ensure that everyone in this city has a safe, affordable place he can call home.
Recently, Project H.O.M.E held its third annual Young Friends Event, which brought together a committee of 55 young leaders who worked to bring about the involvement of young people in the community. With a theme of "Our City, Our H.O.M.E," we sought to educate young Philadelphians about the steps they can take to get involved. The event helps educate young adults about volunteer opportunities that exist that don't require the time and commitment many think.
Volunteering in 2008 is not an impossible resolution. I frequently meet with amazingly talented and dedicated volunteers, many of whom are my peers. I am always inspired by the ways in which volunteering shapes and changes their lives. Recently a young volunteer shared with me the empowerment he witnesses from the teen he mentors, who is working hard to get into college. Another shared a conversation she had with a woman at one of our entry-level residences, which opened her eyes to how similar their life experiences have been. These moments can occur from spending just one afternoon every week, or every month, volunteering your time and talents.
Here are some of the ways you can help, whether you have three hours a month, three hours a week, or one day a year to volunteer your time:
* Serve a community meal one night a month at a safe haven residence that serves as a point of entry for men and women coming off the streets.
* Tutor an adult once a week as he or she prepares for the GED exam.
_ Hold a one-time or ongoing workshop or activity for students in an after school program.
One of the easiest ways to get involved, with virtually no time commitment, is to call Project H.O.M.E.'s Outreach Hotline any time you see a homeless person in need of support. It's as simple as a phone call to 215-232-1984.
So this year when the ball drops, resolve to make a difference in someone's life by helping to provide meaningful opportunities for everyone in our city.
You may find that it's the most inspiring resolution you've ever made. *
Erin O'Brien has been volunteering at various places in various capacities for more than 20 years. She is Volunteer Coordinator for Project H.O.M.E., which works to prevent homelessness and poverty through comprehensive neighborhood revitalization in North Philadelphia.