Beyond Ourselves: Exploring the Impact of Volunteering with FIRST

When a volunteer event has reached the 11th hour, and the hard work to show up for our community is all that is motivating the work happening there is one group that United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County will always call. FIRST at Blue Ridge, lives up to their name of “first”. They are the first group that comes to mind when we need volunteers who will show up whole heartedly. 

For those who know about FIRST at Blue Ridge, this might sound surprising. You may be asking yourself why is a residential therapeutic community for individuals with chronic substance use disorders one of the first groups UWABC thinks of to help with any volunteer event? The answer lies in their journey and philosophy.


At FIRST, it's not just about recovery; it's about connection. Their journey begins with self-help treatment, evolving into a therapeutic community where clinical practices meet real-world experiences. As they navigate their own paths to recovery, they learn invaluable lessons: the importance of support networks, the value of humility, and the joy of giving back.

"We've grown to understand that no one does it alone," says one member of FIRST. "Just like in recovery, you need a support network." It's this ethos that drives them to give back to the community that has supported them. For FIRST, volunteering isn't just an activity; it's a way of life. They embody values like honesty, openness, and respect, recognizing that by helping themselves, they can help others. It's a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, where every interaction becomes an opportunity for growth.

As Allen from FIRST aptly puts it, "When you get caught up in your own head, the way to rectify that is by going to help someone else." It's about transcending judgment and ego, finding fulfillment in enhancing someone else's life.

Mark echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the positive impact of volunteering on both the giver and the receiver. "Life becomes a whole lot more fulfilling when you get the opportunity to enhance someone else's life," he reflects. But volunteering isn't just about altruism; it's also a form of self-care. Mark highlights its role as a healthy outlet during challenging times, a way to surround oneself with positivity and purpose.

“This is a healthy outlet to engage in when things aren’t perfect. It is a way to surround yourself with positive people who will bring you out of your funk and you end up feeling better about yourself”, he shares.


Indeed, the journey of volunteering is as diverse as the volunteers themselves. Whether it's a newcomer experiencing the joy of giving back for the first time or a seasoned volunteer finding new depths of fulfillment, each experience is unique and valuable.

"Somebody who is volunteering at one month is going to have a different experience than someone who is volunteering for eleven months," Mark observes. It's a journey of growth, learning, and self-discovery that unfolds with every act of service.

At its core, volunteering is about more than just lending a hand; it's about forging connections, fostering empathy, and building stronger communities. As members of FIRST at Blue Ridge demonstrate, the act of giving back isn't just about what you can do for others; it's about what you can become in the process.

So, as we navigate the challenges and triumphs of life, let's remember the profound impact of volunteering. Let's follow the lead of FIRST at Blue Ridge and embrace the transformative power of giving back. After all, as they remind us, "You never know who you are going to come into contact with, but chances are good when you're volunteering, it's probably gonna be a positive contact rather than a negative contact.



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