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Massage Today
August, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 08

Giving Back

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Last month, our new managing editor, Rebecca Razo, penned a front-page article titled Sharing the Gift of Touch (

The article touches on a concept I have long held dear: If we are blessed with talents and abilities, we should use them to benefit the rest of society in myriad ways.

Most would agree that massage therapists come pre-programmed with a deep desire to help others. It's what allows us to overcome societal issues surrounding personal space and touch to alleviate pain and discomfort in others. It's also what makes us ideal candidates to expand from our practices and embrace volunteering to serve our own and society's needs.

If you have checked out my bio, you know I am a "volunteeraholic." I love being a massage therapist and look forward to Monday mornings. In previous careers, I haven't always been able to say that; so, now I feel it appropriate to expend my energies giving back to the profession I love and to the society that allows it to flourish.

Volunteering benefits both the society-at-large and the volunteer. It makes important economic and social contributions, giving way to more cohesive societies by building trust and a mutual exchange of effort and activity among citizens.

Even the IRS supports us in our volunteering efforts! Volunteers in the United States can receive tax deductions from the IRS on many costs associated with volunteering, such as mileage; supplies; copying; convention attendance fees; parking; and more. Although you cannot deduct the value of your time or services, you can deduct the expenses you incur while donating your services to a qualified organization, including travel expenses, which may include transportation, meals and lodging while away from home, as long as there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation involved in the travel.

These deductions apply only if you are not receiving reimbursement by the organization you are assisting. You also must itemize them on your tax form; thus, you cannot take the deductions if you use the 1040 EZ form. (Please note that this information is for general reference. Consult a tax professional, or download IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions [] for more information.)

In addition to providing tax deductions, volunteering allows us to live out our fantasies. Many of us secretly wish we could spend our days on Broadway, taming lions, or doing any of a thousand different things; however, our career paths - and maybe our true talents - led us in different directions. Volunteering is a way to make your dreams come true! Instead of selecting a volunteer assignment that makes use of your professional skills, consider finding a form of community service that taps the "inner you."

Do you love show business? There are lots of community theater groups, local telethons and performing troupes that might welcome your involvement. If you can't act or sing, you could manage, sew costumes or book acts.

Do you love animals? Few paying jobs involve a lot contact with animals; however, you can volunteer at the zoo, and do everything from helping the keepers to giving tours. The humane society might welcome your help in caring for unwanted pets and finding adoptive families for them.

Perhaps you want the chance to be a leader. Chairing a committee, coordinating a special event, or being a team captain of other volunteers will allow you fulfill this function. You'll finally be in charge! The Web site suggests adding volunteer activities to your resume:

"Consider integrating your volunteer work into the section of your resume called 'Work Experience.' Even if you were not paid a salary and did not consider the volunteering to be 'employment,' it certainly was productive work and should count as 'experience.' The key is to translate what you gained from the volunteer activity into the language of the paid work world. Don't use 'volunteer' as a job title. It's an adjective and alone does not convey the work that you accomplished. So, if you did tutoring, use the title 'Tutor.' If you coordinated a project, identify your work accurately as 'Project Coordinator.' The fact that you filled this position in an unpaid capacity is part of your description of the work. First grab your prospective employer's interest with an accurate position title."

I hope I have stirred your willingness and desire to share in my volunteerism delight! If massage is your passion, as it is mine, you don't even have to leave the field to participate. Drag your massage chair down to the local firehouse or police station and volunteer on and after holiday weekends when employees have been on duty for extended periods of time. Contact any national, state or local massage association and offer to help. Member or not, most will welcome your call!

Contact the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals ( or the American Massage Therapy Association ( for more volunteering ideas.

It's time to give back right now - don't you think?

Thanks for listening!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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