Bake a cake. Blow up the balloons. Hang the streamers. It’s time to celebrate because we’re having a birthday!

This year, the Volunteer Center of Dallas County turns 25 – a quarter of a century matching volunteers and other resources with community needs. We’ve come a long way from black binders filled with available volunteer positions to a comprehensive computer database containing information about more than 7,000 volunteer opportunities.

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And while I enjoy birthday cake as much as the next person (maybe more), I’m not asking for food, parties or expensive presents. I would like you to give something, however – yourself.

Join the thousands of people in our community who are reaching out to help others. Become a volunteer.

Are you convinced? If not, here are 25 reasons (for our 25th birthday) why you should volunteer.

1. Feel needed. Volunteering is a great pick-me-up when you’re feeling unappreciated. The smile on a child’s face is a guaranteed remedy for the blues.

2. Share your overlooked or unknown talents. Always wanted to star on Broadway? Sing your favorite show tunes to nursing home residents.

3. Learn new skills. Speaking Spanish, painting buildings and scooping ice cream the right way – and skills I’ve learned as a volunteer.

4. Boss people around. Volunteers who work at special events get to tell people to stand here, go there, drop that.

5. Add some spice to your resume or college application.

6. Meet new people. Volunteering is all about people. Some volunteers have even met Mr. or Mrs. Right while on the job!

7. Take a tax deduction. Okay, so this isn’t the most altruistic reason for volunteering, but it’s valid.

8. Give to an organization that has helped you. Do your children play baseball at the YMCA? Maybe the Arthritis Foundation helped your grandmother. Say “thank you” by becoming a volunteer.

9. Live longer. Really! Studies show that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer than those who don’t.

10. Learn shortcuts. Volunteers who deliver meals, drive patients and run errands know the quickest routes through town.

11. Help others. At-risk children, cancer patients, homeless families, abused women – they need someone like you.

12. Be a part of the “in” thing to do. Last year, the Volunteer Center made more than 80,000 referrals. Face it, volunteering is cool.

13. Improve your corporate image. Your company can show its support for the community by encouraging employees to volunteer.

14. Share something with your family. Volunteering doesn’t have to be a solo event. Bring your children, and make it a family affair.

15. Get some exercise. You’d be amazed at the calories you can burn volunteering – chasing golf balls, picking blueberries, carrying kids.

16. Win the lottery. Not really, but volunteering can make you feel lucky to be alive and doing well.

17. Experience a different culture. You can learn a lot from newly arrived refugees, senior citizens and people from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

18. Cure boredom. If you don’t enjoy watching summer re-runs, volunteer instead.

19. Avoid seeing your in-laws. Tell them you have a volunteer commitment you just can’t get out of.

20. Learn something without going to school. Study stars at the Science Place, Texas history at Old City Park or reptiles at the Dallas Zoo.

21. Stand up for a cause you believe in. Whether it’s pollution, violence, AIDS or poverty, you can be part of the solution.

22. Collect T-shirts. Most nonprofit agencies host walk-a-thons, golf tournaments and other events that require the help of hundreds of volunteers wearing matching T-shirts. (You get to keep the T-shirt.)

23. Find a job. Sometimes, volunteers are hired by the agencies they serve.

24. Get in good with your parents/spouse/date/boss. There’s nothing more impressive than someone who finds time to volunteer.

25. Listen to your heart. You can make a difference in someone’s life.

We’re waiting for your call.