Oh, let's start with Elfwood. Why not. I am a volunteer for Elfwood because I resent mooches and have sworn not to be one. Besides which, I really, really like the people involved. *patpats nice people* I also enjoy that rush of accomplishment that comes with a fast-paced, growing, moving project, and I'm not inclined to quit things even when that initial 'new-project' glow goes away.
b) What have I gained from this?
Some fantastic acquaintances and friends, and a lot of people I would like to be friends with. Excellent exposure for my own business. I have learned a fabulous amount from simply having a gallery at Elfwood, but I can't really count that under things gained from volunteering; volunteering is somewhat my thanks *for* that. I have learned a great deal about project organization, interpersonal relationships, particularly the thorns of on-line communication. I have honed some writing skills, and I get that warm squishy feeling from feeling like I'm doing something that, while not always volubly appreciated, is at least something useful to a lot of people.
c) How is this affecting my life?
Not an awful lot, frankly. I don't take the squabbles and flames personally or pay them a lot of mind. I check my gallery regularly, and like getting comments, and would like to see feedback on my articles and columns in Woodworks, but I don't run my life around them. Getting T-shirts and mousepads out can be a bit of a pain, but it's something I'm used to, and I enjoy it once I get into that working rhythm. I consider that I've come out ahead; with friends I hope I will keep beyond Elfwood, and that warm feeling that I've done something good and useful.