This year, globalHMA is interrupting our individual birthday celebrations to spend time volunteering during our birthday month. We encourage each person to select a cause that matters to them, give back and share their volunteer experience.

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons. You volunteer to help out the community, raise money for a favorite charity, become a board member of a local organization, learn about something new or share your own expertise with others. Whatever the reason or means, the benefits are significant not only to you as the individual, but also the people you are assisting.

Earlier this year, I volunteered my time with Lancaster Young Professionals (LYP) and one of its 2015 community service partners, Mental Health America of Lancaster County (MHALC). MHALC dedicates its resources to help individuals lead mentally healthy lives through advocacy, education and support. Specifically, I helped out by running some of the games at MHALC’s 14th annual Celebration of Recovery Picnic at Long’s Park. It was a hot and humid day, but interacting with the people and watching their excited reactions while playing the games was well worth the sweat.

Chances are someone you know or love with a mental illness. In fact, one in five American adults experience a health issue. Fortunately, it’s not always a life sentence. Services and community support systems like MHALC offer hope and mental health management tools. Volunteers who give their time and resources are often the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Rather than ignore mental illness or contribute to the prevalent stigmas attached to mental illness, try volunteering somewhere like MHALC. I promise you’ll learn a lot.

Volunteering can be a great balance to a busy lifestyle, especially if you have a demanding job. It helps put things into perspective. It helps you appreciate the other side of your life. Instead of helping yourself earn a paycheck, you are assisting others for free. You are volunteering your time and energy because you can and because you care.

Have you volunteered lately? If you’re looking to get more involved in the community, check out LYP and the great volunteer opportunities it offers.