Part of an international network (, our small-town event included hundreds of volunteers doing half-day service projects for more than 30 non-profits and community organizations, ranging from a  food bank to a state park to an animal shelter.

The eager volunteers met at a church for registration, songs, and send-off blessings from a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Unitarian minister, and other spiritual leaders, and then set out to the various project sites.

Choosing to serve at the animal shelter that is our dog Buddy’s “alma mater,” Heather and her mother bonded while cleaning windows and filling litter pans in the cat area—and of course providing ample snuggles and play sessions for the kitties as well. Being such an animal lover, Heather was all smiles. In fact, by the end of the day her face was sore from smiling so much!

After three hours of service, volunteers returned to the church for food, story sharing, and closing ceremonies. That concluded a day full of community-building, awareness-raising of the needs in our community, and the joy of giving back, also known as “helper’s high.”

Heather happily saw this uplifting experience reinforced in the current issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, in an informative article  about the health benefits of helping others.

If you’d like to enjoy some of these benefits yourself, there are many options to choose from. You can find volunteer opportunities in your community on websites such as You can give back while getting away through voluntourism programs such as those offered by Universal Orlando Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Community Footprints program, and others. Or, if you are a teacher, you and your students can organize your own Mitzvah Day event to enjoy this powerful service learning experience. However you choose to give back, we’d love to hear about it!