7 Places to Volunteer and Give Back to the Community

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Giving back to your community or causes near to your heart creates a meaningful sense of purpose and can even improve your physical and mental health. Whether you’re looking to meet new people, get involved in a charitable cause or even advance your career skills, finding places to volunteer is a great way to make a difference in your life—and the lives of others. 

In just about every instance, community service doesn’t require extensive experience (although some technical and health care-related volunteer opportunities might require certain work or education criteria) and offer on-the-job training. 

7 places to volunteer year-round

So where should you channel your charitable energy? While you might find places to volunteer through chit-chat with coworkers or neighbors, there are volunteering ideas as individual as you. But no matter where you choose to give back, volunteering is important for the community! From your local food bank, homeless shelter or place of religious worship to volunteering ideas abroad, an uplifting and rewarding experience awaits via these ways to give back.

1. For diverse ways to volunteer

One of the largest volunteering organizations, the Red Cross offers places to give back both in your backyard (serve on local boards, help with fundraising and marketing and recruit like-minded citizens with a passion to perform volunteer work) and in other parts of the country—or world. Although many international disasters are managed by local volunteers, the Red Cross responds wherever needed and recruits local volunteers to apply to become part of its international disaster response roster. Similar national opportunities exist with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), a national organization providing disaster relief across America.

2. Animal rescue organizations frequently need volunteers

Few things brighten any day quicker than puppy licks and playing with kittens. Whether you love sharing your home with animals, or love furry friends but can’t have one of your own, volunteering at a shelter is an ideal opportunity. The work is diverse, from bathing and exercising animals to socializing them with humans or other animals and helping them adjust to lives free of cruelty. Plus, your morale is sure to soar. Some organizations like SmallPawsRescue.org also have opportunities to transport rescued animals to foster homes or other safe locations en route to a “furever “home. You’ll find animal shelters in large cities as well as small towns and rural areas, and a local veterinarian can often provide a list of shelters or rescues in your area. 

3. Volunteer at places that support patients in need

Organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association provide ways to volunteer to enhance the experience of kids attending their camps and other community events. You can also support patients by providing rides to treatments or sharing your personal experience as a survivor. 

4. Find places to volunteer with seniors

Various opportunities exist at senior living centers or retirement homes, from helping with recreation and leading arts and crafts activities, to reading to residents, hosting dance classes and scheduling visits from performers. Some facilities also need volunteers for specific events like game nights or days out, which can involve driving residents to complete errands or outdoor activities. Many states’ Office for the Aging offers opportunities to serve as an advocate (often in cases where a senior doesn’t have any family nearby or able to provide support) and help individuals in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This work requires you to visit residents to identify complaints and concerns, and work with staff to correct problems, as well as help residents understand their right to good care. 

5. Help build homes and provide shelter for those in need

Imagine repairing, rebuilding and revitalizing communities from the ground up. Volunteer ideas like Rebuilding Together respond to natural disasters as well as calls for those in need of safe, reliable housing. Whether joining the women-led and women-focused She Builds, which provides critical repairs for women-headed households and women-focused community spaces, or Safe at Home, which serves veterans and their families through Veterans at Home, there are local and national options to pick up a hammer and build memories within the community. 

Want to spread your wings a bit? Join a Habitat for Humanity service-learning experience. You can volunteer in multiple countries with its Global Village and Habitat and Thrivent Worldwide programs. Through these programs, volunteers learn from the local, national and international communities about affordable housing issues and work in partnership to build safe housing solutions. If building houses seems a bit daunting, consider volunteering for Sleep in Heavenly Peace, the national organization that provides beds (pillow and blanket included!) to children who’ve otherwise spent their nights sleeping on couches, sharing beds or even sleeping on floors. 

6. Spend time volunteering in nature

Public funding only covers a fraction of the cost required to support and maintain state and national parks. Whether you only have a day here and there or are in the mood for a year-round commitment, want to volunteer on your own or with friends and family, there are numerous opportunities at state and national parks, including in the U.S. territories. Bonus: This volunteer idea gives you the opportunity to visit parks close to home or at a dream destination. The National Park Service is a great place to search available national park volunteer opportunities, or visit volunteer.gov to find other natural areas near you.

7. Find places that need volunteers for specific tasks

Still unsure where you want to funnel your volunteer hours? Visit VolunteerMatch.org for opportunities and ideas located in your backyard, or a few minutes away. From hosting foreign exchange students and preparing nutritious food for homebound neighbors with Meals on Wheels, to caring for horses and teaching underprivileged children how to play musical instruments, there’s a place to volunteer for every interest and commitment level. 

Photo by ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

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