Volunteering is a glimmer of a thought for most, mainly because we don’t even know where to begin. There is such an overwhelming amount of opportunities that we often give up on the idea before we have even done a google search.
So, I’ve narrowed down the top ten ways for you to get involved, with the hopes that each of us will seize the day and do our part to better our community:
Volunteer at a Community Theater
- Unlike professional theater companies, community theater relies on volunteers to run every aspect of the production. From box office to props, direction to lighting, volunteers are the blood that runs through the veins of community theater. No matter what your skill, there is an opportunity to be found at a theater in your community.
Help the Global Community through Kiva.org
- Interested in helping others in need, but don’t have the time to volunteer? Want to help less fortunate communities outside of your own? Kiva is the way to go. People around the world post their profiles and inspiring stories in hopes of acquiring a loan for their small business or education. After they have reached their funding goal, Kiva grants them the loan with your (temporary) donation and over time the loanee will pay you back. Once you have earned back your investment you can extract the funds or keep the cycle going by giving to a new proprietor! Loans start at $25 and Kiva won’t take a dime, unless you offer…
Donate from a Neighborhood Garage Sale
- Want a quick and efficient way to help out? Organize a garage sale with the neighbors in your community by cleaning out the basement and making a few bucks. Donate the money you make to a local animal shelter or family resource center. Things that don’t sell (like books, clothes, furniture) can be donated to the local library, or salvation army!
Help out at a Local Zoo or Animal Shelter
- If you’re an animal lover there are plenty of opportunities out there to give back to the animals in our community. Many local zoos now take volunteers. Helping the zoologists with feeding animals and caring for their environments is a REAL volunteer opportunity (if you are lucky enough to have a zoo in your community). Otherwise there are plenty of animal shelters that love to have volunteers walk, feed and play with the current inhabitants. Volunteers for animal shelters are in high demand so if you ever have a free afternoon and a warm heart, give your local shelter a call to inquire about the opportunity.
Tutor a Child in Need with United Way
- With many public schools increasing in class size, students are having a hard time getting one on one attention with their teachers. Also many families can’t afford the cost of a professional tutor to help improve their child’s grades or educational needs. United Way is a great program to help kids in your community by giving them the educational attention they deserve for free. After a quick orientation program you can be on your way to helping a child to a better future.
Become a driver for Meals on Wheels
- Meals on Wheels is a great program for people who would love to help out the elderly, but don’t feel comfortable with volunteering in a nursing home. Meals on Wheels, (which was founded in 1940!) is dedicated to bringing nutritious meals to senior citizens and the disabled in all 50 states. No matter where your community is, meals on wheels is taking volunteers for Drivers, Cooks, Packagers, Office Duties and Special Events.
Get a new little sibling with Big Brothers Big Sisters
- Big Brothers Big Sisters is a very unique and rewarding program. Although it requires a day long workshop to train you for the experience, it is a very valuable opportunity. After you’ve finished your training BBBS pairs you up with a boy or girl in your community that simply needs a friend or mentor. After adopting this new sibling, they require that you spend at least a couple hours a week together doing homework or just hanging out. Friends who have done the program would agree; if you are willing to make the long term commitment that BBBS encourages, it will see itself out as a very enlightening volunteer opportunity.
Join Habitat for Humanity
- Habitat, as the cool kids call it, is one of the most recognizable, non-profit, non-governmental organizations in its category. Habitat’s goal is to build “simple, decent and affordable” housing for low-income families around the world. They also stress the quality of the projects as low energy, healthy and sustainable without the worry of cost inflation over time. Volunteers can help with everything from office work, to sales in their ReStore (non profit resale outlet) or most commonly, construction on the homes. Not only will you be helping your community, but you’ll also be learning a new set of skills and getting a great workout!
Spend time at the YMCA (or Boys and Girls Club)
- The YMCA and The Boys and Girls Club are two of the oldest and well known community outreach programs. With activities for all ages, these organizations rely heavily on volunteers to keep their programs in shape, and to keep people off of the streets. If you are interested in coaching a sports team, teaching a class or are just looking for a fast paced, fun environment to volunteer, then this might be the option for you. There is a YMCA or B&G Club in almost every community if this idea inspires you most.
Volunteer at the Special Olympics
- The Special Olympics is my personal favorite volunteer opportunity; I encourage everyone to try. It is the world’s largest athletic event for those with intellectual disabilities. The athletes of all ages, are from over 170 countries and train throughout the year for this event in their community. You can get involved by helping to organize the event, keeping score at the games, running concession or by doing one of the other hundreds of jobs that friendly volunteers come out for on this fantastic celebration of life.
… if you don’t find something here that suits your liking but still want to volunteer, search for opportunities in your area with Volunteer Match!
By Lori Gottlieb