If the satisfaction of helping others isn't enough, there are a number of other benefits to volunteering for your local parks and recreation department. For example, you could pick up key leadership skills. And there's the fact that you'll likely be working outdoors, making new friends, getting in shape, learning new things, improving your self-esteem and building your resume. These are just a few of the things you stand a chance at gaining, among others.
Most parks and recreation departments offer free admission to their parks and facilities if volunteers work for a certain number of hours. In some places, like South Dakota, that means free campsites with electrical hookups [source: South Dakota Park Volunteer Manual]. Many state park passes are getting costly so this is a great way to save money while enjoying the parks.
In New York City, volunteering includes free workshops on topics like bird identification and aquatic ecology [source: New York City Department of Parks & Recreation]. For specific information on your area, just check out your state's parks and recreation Web site.
Many parks and recreation departments host annual volunteer recognition days. The lure of a party with free food is a strong incentive for some, but if you need more, consider this: Volunteering can often lead to a full-time job working in a field you love.
Straying from the material benefits, studies have also shown that volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction, lower rates of depression and better mental and physical health, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service [source: CityTownInfo].
For more on volunteering at a parks and recreation department near you, see the links on the next page.