As people come together to support communities, neighbors and friends, the value of volunteers quickly becomes priceless.
The Progressive Agriculture Foundation sees the impact firsthand. With just six staff members in six different states, thousands of volunteers help the foundation host hands-on Safety Days throughout North America.
“We rely heavily on the support of nearly 500 lead and assistant Safety Day coordinators that we train each year,” Jana Davidson, education content specialist, said. “Then, they go back to their local communities and empower nearly 20,000 volunteers locally to really help teach the kids about farm safety and health.”
Even in a pandemic, there are still opportunities to give back. Davidson acknowledged most events are canceled.
“There are still things we can do even though we feel like we’re trapped at home,” Davidson said. “Little things that we can do make a big impact.”
In addition to releasing educational Daily Drops on the Progressive Agriculture Safety Days Facebook Page, Davidson and her co-workers are also highlighting ways to volunteer such as giving blood or picking up groceries for the elderly.
The power of volunteers can add up. The foundation counted 121,000 volunteer hours valued at more than $3 million in 2019.
“A little goes a long way,” Davidson said. “Most of these folks just donated a few hours of their time, and look at the big impact it made.”
Davidson said benefits bounce back onto the volunteers themselves.
“Volunteering can counteract the effects of stress, anger, depression and anxiety because of that social contact aspect, and when you’re helping others, you’re feeling good about yourself too,” Davidson said. “It’s a really great stress reliever just to make connections with someone else.”
She noted the older generation that may be retired can benefit greatly from volunteering because it maintains regular content with others.
“You have that support system,” Davidson said. “If you are not feeling yourself or if there is somebody you want to talk to, a lot of times you can bring in that network of folks that you volunteer with.”
Additionally, Davidson said it can strengthen a passion for the cause.
“It gives you a sense of purpose,” Davidson said. “It makes us really take a step back and realize there are things bigger than us or bigger than our problems that we can put efforts toward.”
She noted people do not have to give a huge commitment to make a difference. It could be a time to express creativity or find new outlets for talents. For example, Davidson mentioned in today’s virtual world, a nonprofit may need help with websites or social media.
As the Progressive Agriculture Foundation begins planning for Safety Days in 2021, Davidson noted three key ways people can continue to help. The first was to share daily learning drops posted at 11:00 a.m. on Facebook and YouTube.
“Another parent or a teacher might pick up on hose and share those with a child that could prevent an incident from occurring,” Davidson said.
Although safety days are free for youth, the value of each child that attends is $13 because it includes a t-shirt, curriculum development, take-home bags and more. Davidson said people could sponsor a child to attend in the future.
Lastly, she mentioned communities can start applying to host 2021 Progressive Agriculture Safety Days.
“We are looking at that light at the end of the tunnel through this pandemic,” Davidson said.
Information about donating or applying to host a Safety Day can be found on the Progressive Agriculture Foundation website.