We’re all here to care for and about other people. It’s a simple fact of life. That’s why finding causes that make us feel connected to the world around us feels so satisfying. And when our personal interests collide with volunteer opportunities that give back to the community, everybody wins.
Both socioeconomic status and homogeneity of the population dictate the rate at which people volunteer in a given area, writes Art Markman, PhD, in Psychology Today. In states like New York, Nevada, and Florida only about 22 percent of people volunteer. Meanwhile, residents of Utah, Minnesota, and Iowa volunteer at a rate of about 40 percent. The case for volunteering your time and energy stronger when you find out the health benefits. According to Ichiro Kawachi, PhD, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health, volunteering is good for the health of both the person who receives the support as well as the volunteer. “Community social connections are as important for resilience to disaster as physical material like disaster kits or medical supplies,” he says.
I scoured the pages of Volunteer Match, an online service dedicate to helping people find an opportunity to help people and creatures throughout the country. I found no shortage of volunteer opportunities to suit various personality types and particular interests. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, always willing to lend a paw, or just love to have heart-to-heart convos with the people that live in your neighborhood, there’s room to get involved.
Looking for volunteer opportunities? These are some of the best places to give your time and energy
If your home is never without a fresh bouquet, work with Random Acts of Flowers
Get involved with a blooming organization on a mission to recycle flowers that would otherwise end up in the trash. Volunteers sort and deliver flowers donated after special events (such as weddings) to patients in nearby health facilities. If you throw in your hat to volunteer with them, you’ll be involved in collecting the blooms, forming them into gorgeous new arrangements, working with compost, and making face-to-face contact with the community. Random Acts of Flowers has operations in Chicago, Indianapolis, Knoxville, and Tampa Bay.
If you can’t get enough of the wilderness, become a part of The National Park Service’s Volunteers-In-Parks
So your located in close proximity to a large stretch of wilderness. Lucky you (no seriously though, I’m jealous). Head to volunteer.gov to find which positions are available near you. According to the website, this may include everything from a one-time gig to a long-term commitment you make with the streams, trees, and animals that inhabit the 79 million acres of land under NPS stewardship.
If you like to advocate for your community (and you live in NYC), try Housing Works
Housing Works non-profit is an institution to those of us who inhabit the Big Apple. The celebrated organization has spent the last 25 years offering help to both the city’s homeless population and anyone affected by HIV/AIDS. If you wish to join, you can fill out a form indicating exactly how you want to participate, such as working in one of their bookshops, producing newsletters, and conducting research, among other volunteer opportunities.
If you’re passionate about bringing fitness to wellness deserts, try a non-profit yoga program
Many organizations throughout the U.S. are on a mission to bring yoga to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have it. The Purple Dot Yoga Program located in St. Petersburg, Florida, is one such example. They bring yoga to domestic violence shelters, create spaces where people can share their stories, and work toward raising awareness about abuse. There’s also Hands to Heart Center in Boston, which brings classes to people living in poverty, and Yoga Bridge in Texas, which creates asana programs specifically for people with cancer.
If you’re passionate about helping victims of violence, volunteer with RAINN
The era of #MeToo has only amplified the importance of stepping up for survivors of abuse and sexual violence. RAINN—the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization—accepts volunteers to work with its National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can apply here to help.
If you never shut up about books, your local public library has plenty of volunteer opportunities
Depending on where you live in the country, your library’s needs will differ. Citizens of Berkeley, California, for instance, raise their hands to volunteer at the check out desk. In Brooklyn, the public library needs adult literacy tutors and and storytime ambassadors, among various other volunteer opportunities..
If you’re passionate about animals, volunteer with the Humane Society’s Rescue team
Animals that are both affected by illegal cruelty and natural disasters benefit from the help of the Humane Society. If you join, you’ll be asked to provide care for the creatures in a holistic way—feeding them, cleaning cages, walking them, and more. Practicing veterinarians can also volunteer to offer their medical expertise to temporary shelters.
If you consider yourself a part-time scholar, try volunteer opportunities for tutoring
New York’s The City Tutors offers after-school educational support to students in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, where a diverse group of volunteers bring their particular expertise to the program. If you don’t live in NYC, chances are your neighborhood offers a similar program, like Reading Partners Charleston, South Carolinaand, and Literacy Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In case you didn’t know, volunteering is good for your health.
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