Do you ever feel like you want to make a difference in your community, but you aren’t quite sure where to start? Well, here’s some good news. Tons of great opportunities are just waiting for you out there. And, even better, we have some tried and true ways to find the perfect volunteering match for you.
Share What You Love
Enthusiasm is catching, so volunteer for something you’re excited about. If you adore animals, an animal shelter or animal rescue group would be thrilled to accept your help. If reading delights you, then volunteering with a literacy program or library could be very rewarding. If you’re inspired by the outdoors, helping a parks organization or environmental group plant trees, clean creeks, or start a community garden might be the perfect choice for you.
Another way to find a good match is to consider what is important to you. Any group you especially want to support – elderly, women, vegetarians, homeless, GLBT, children, racial issues, as only a few examples – will have an organization that works for justice and equality for that group. They would
love your help. Some volunteers make phone calls or walk door to door getting signatures, while others help people more directly. Choose one that makes your heart sing!
Gifts from the Heart
Giving to worthy organizations is another good way to support your community. Money is one option, but other donations are just as valuable. Clothing and household items are essential for homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and groups like St. Vincent de Paul. Food banks often use volunteer
workers and always appreciate donations of nonperishable food items. And don’t forget there’s also giving blood, which can literally save someone’s life. Check the Red Cross for a blood drive near you.
Matchmaker, Make Me a Match
VolunteerMatch.org has an easy-to-use interface with volunteer opportunities sorted by location and category. Simply enter your ZIP code and click on a category you’re interested in, and, presto!, a list of opportunities near you. Items are described as ongoing or for a single event. The categories are wide-ranging and include human rights, women, animals, politics, computers and technology, disaster relief, and many more. This site is a great resource for volunteers.
GiveSpot.com offers lists of volunteer opportunities, donation links, information about charitable organizations, articles about charities and volunteer traveling, and loads of other stuff. It’s not the prettiest site on the web, but it has lots and lots of useful information.
Step by Step
When you’re a new volunteer with a group, keep in mind that you will most likely be given simple tasks so that they can see how you work and become more familiar with you. As you continue to volunteer with that organization, they’ll trust you more and more, and gradually you’ll be given more challenging jobs and greater responsibility – maybe even supervising new volunteers like you used
Little Things Mean a Lot
Remember, every little thing helps. It takes all the tasks, from the biggest to the littlest, to help people and keep our communities happy and healthy.
An old story tells of a girl who came upon a beach where many thousands of starfish had washed ashore. She knew if they lay in the sun, they would perish. So, she began picking up starfish and gently throwing them back in the ocean, one at a time. A man walking along the beach saw her and shook his head. He gestured to the miles of stranded starfish down the beach and said to the girl, “Why do you bother? You can’t possibly make a difference.” The girl tossed another starfish in the water and said to the man, “It made a difference to that one.”
When we volunteer, each little task is another starfish – it might be small, but every single one makes a difference.