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Is volunteering the new Match.com?


Here’s something that ought to make all the single ladies and men, for that matter, perk up. Volunteering improves your love life.

I’m not kidding. It’s also good for expanding your social circle, enhancing your relationships and boosting your career, and in many instances, it encourages physical activity.

This being Atlanta, where there are 80,000 more single women than men ages 18-64, I thought inquiring minds might want to know that volunteering just might be the new Match.com.

In a nationwide survey by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Giving and Getting Back: Volunteering in America, nearly 90 percent of those polled said that volunteering had proved to be a winner when it came to their social life. The number was even higher — 96 percent — for male millennials.

“In our effort to find cures and ensure access to lifesaving treatments for blood cancer patients, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has set the standard for volunteerism,” said Fran Schefer, a campaign director responsible for the Atlanta office’s Team in Training program. “But it’s clear from the survey that special bonds often develop while volunteering with others.”

Ten percent of volunteers said that helping others led to romantic relationships and, of those, 6 percent ended up walking down the aisle in marriage.

It’s true. It happened to Jen and Bill Moss of Smyrna.

Bill was training for a half marathon with Team in Training, but during long Saturday morning sessions in 2005, he found himself in need of a sitter for Haley, a rescue mutt he’d just adopted.

Would Jen take care of her?

Must be a lady magnet, she teased as she took Haley from Bill’s arms.

Must have been. The two became quick friends who could talk about just about anything, sitting still or running and training together as they often did.

In the summer of 2006, their volunteer efforts took them to Dublin, Ireland, for a run that would change their lives.

By then, Bill knew he was falling for Jen. He didn’t mind her stinky sweat. She didn’t mind his. The two of them had become an item, going on dates to the movies and dinners and TNT fundraisers.

Once while heading up Rivers Road in Buckhead, Bill talked about his late mother, who’d passed away in 2000 from leukemia. As they entered the final stretch of the 20-mile run, Bill broke down crying. His mother had brought him to LLS. Now she was pushing him toward the finish.

They could feel themselves drawing closer. They officially abandoned their eHarmony accounts and, just about the time Bill tore his ACL, they headed to Dublin along with 22 other team members.

Jen had run herself ragged by the end of that Dublin run. As night fell, she realized she’d given every supplement she had to the runners on her team. She was wondering what she was going to eat when she looked up and saw Bill.

“I realized he was my partner,” she said.

Bill realized he wanted to take care of her. For the rest of his life.

On Nov. 28, 2006, two weeks after ACL surgery, he did his best to get on his knee to pop the question. Jen said yes and the two were married in June 2007. They went on to have two daughters, ages 7 and 4.

Bill and Jen knew at least a half dozen couples who’d met while volunteering with LLS and married. Now the match god had worked its magic for them.

None of them had been looking for a love match when they signed on to help the national nonprofit. They were, however, looking for a way to honor loved ones: Bill’s mother, Margaret, and Jen’s grandmother, who passed away from lymphoma.

In the summer of 1996, Margaret was diagnosed with leukemia and wasn’t expected to live through the night.

“That’s when I met LLS,” Bill said. “It helped mom get into a clinical trial and that helped prolong her life. We got 18 more months with her.”

In 2004, Bill moved to Atlanta and was looking for a place to get involved when he heard about an information session with LLS and signed on to volunteer.

“Not many months go by when we’re not doing something with this organization,” Jen Moss said.

Together they have raised nearly $50,000 for LLS. Each has been a candidate for man and woman of the year. Jen Moss has coached at least six TNT teams, and just last month, she was a volunteer coach at Walt Disney World.

Bill has been a participant and mentor for several teams and is a member on the National TNT Advisory Board and chairperson of the Georgia Chapter TNT Executive Leadership Committee.

Since being founded in 1949, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in cancer research to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. LLS research grants have funded many of today’s most promising advances, including targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

Matchmaking just happens to be an added bonus. Jen’s and Bill’s story, Schefer said, has been replicated numerous times within the LLS community across the country.

“It doesn’t surprise me that people are meeting their life partners, but that’s not why we’re here,” he said. “We’re really working for a much higher purpose.”



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