Serving Those Who Serve Us

    Operation: Cigars for Warriors

    Probably the biggest aspect of what has made Operation: Cigars for Warriors (CFW) so successful over the years is the nonprofit organization’s volunteers. So what does it mean to be a volunteer for CFW? The first thing you need to understand is what it means to be a volunteer for any charity organization.

    One of the more obvious benefits of volunteering is the impact it will have on a specific community. A community could be anything from your local neighborhood to your city to a nationwide cause. Volunteering allows you to connect with said community and help make it better than it was before.

    Even helping out with the smallest of tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals or organizations in need. Even helping with the smallest of tasks can affect the organization in a visible and strong way toward the cause of your choice.

    Becoming a volunteer can have some other really neat benefits besides just the amazing feeling you get from doing something beneficial for others. Volunteering can help you make friends, and in this fast-paced society making friends is not as easy as it should be—especially with the way everything is going electronic and everyone’s noses are embedded in their phones. Even working from home can be detrimental for your social life. Joining a common cause with others can greatly increase your friendships, which is something that is just good for your health.

    We all have busy lives these days, and they are so much faster paced than they were 20 years ago. The addition of social media networks increases this fast-paced feeling, adds more stressors and provides less time for stress release. Reading this article, there is a very strong chance that you are saying to yourself that you just do not have time to volunteer; however, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. While volunteering offers help to those causes near and dear to your heart, it can honestly be an even greater benefit for you.

    “Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health,” says Dr. Hans Seylee, a leading physician who specializes in stress management. “It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”

    As a former training sergeant at a law enforcement academy, one of the most important courses I taught was stress management. I can tell you that the top complaint when teaching the class was that the cadets would state that they did not have time to do things to lower the amount of their stressors. The reality is that most people have a horrible time with time management skills. You would be surprised at how easy it is to find 30 minutes to an hour every day to do something else that is outside of your normal schedule. Just 30 minutes of your life every day, or even a couple of days a week, can greatly impact any charity operation that you choose to be part of. I can’t tell you how many times that people have come to me lamenting that they want to help out but just do not have the time to do so. Volunteering doesn’t mean that you spend 20 hours or more a week doing it. While we have several volunteers who do work that many hours, they do that because it makes them happy, not because of pressure from the charity.

    I have built within CFW the atmosphere of “CFW micro-volunteerism,” which in simple terms describes a volunteer or team of volunteers completing small tasks that make up a larger project. These tasks often benefit a research, charitable or nongovernmental organization. It differs from normal volunteerism because the tasks take only minutes to a few hours, and the volunteer does not make a long-term commitment. As a form of virtual volunteering, the tasks are usually distributed and completed online via an internet-connected device, including smartphones. I have “CFW” as part of the title, as we do require everyone to do an application, and we interview applicants because we believe strongly in checks and balances. Additionally, what is different from the traditional definition of micro-volunteerism is that our volunteers stay with the charity for continuous tasks, and, in many cases, for years. This is important to understand so potential volunteers understand that there are important things to do that do not require a ton of time or responsibilities.

    Operation: Cigars for WarriorsI love the phrase, “Volunteering is good for the soul,” and that is very true, especially when you see the impact of your efforts. With CFW, meeting one of our recipients that has received a “warrior’s package” from us will give you an amazing feeling. Over the years, service members that were a recipient of ours will hear that we are at an event or festival and will show up to meet the CFW representative. Many of them have given some amazing testimonies of what the package meant to them. In fact, many times, other people who were not part of the charity would overhear these men and women’s stories, and quite often some of those same folks would turn around and volunteer for CFW. Many of those have been volunteering for CFW for years. Our volunteers love to tell you what moved them to join, and many times it is a story from a recipient that gave them the charity bug.
    The original founders of CFW started the charity to simply say “thank you” to our deployed men and women servicemembers. We knew we were doing something special, and this was especially driven home to us when we started getting recipients joining CFW as volunteers! In fact, our very first recipient, Capt. Daniel McDougal, became a volunteer in 2012 while he was still on active duty, and he is still an event coordinator in Arizona.

    There are so many benefits to becoming a volunteer, such as:

    • Volunteering brings new friendships into your life.
    • Becoming a volunteer gives you a great new network and connections.
    • Being a volunteer is good for your mind and body.
    • Volunteering is a great way to advance your career .or future desired career.
    • Volunteering can be a lot fun and add fulfillment to your life.

    Most people do not like to talk about how volunteering can advance your career because they feel it is wrong to have that motivation. However, people are more complex than that and have multiple motivations for volunteering. That is a good thing because it gives them more than just one reason to join and, more importantly, stay longer than the national average of a regular charity, which is 120 days.

    CFW loves volunteers who join to further their career in a specific field. The charity thus gains someone with a specific knowledge or skill set that it may desperately need, and the volunteer gains valuable experience doing said skill. Several times over the years, we have even created new positions because someone was bringing a new skill set to the charity that the charity may have never thought of, and then that skill set quickly became essential. Even being an event coordinator for a national military charity can really help highlight your resume.