Getting involved in your community is pretty much as simple as having the desire and just getting out there. There are plenty of organizations that are ready and willing to let you help out. Even if volunteer work is not normally on their agenda, there are many things you could offer to do for them that would be appreciated.
Check With Local Schools and Organizations That Help Children
Local schools always need a helping hand. Whether you are helping to build a playground or reading a book to a classroom of kindergartners, it is likely a school will welcome volunteer work with open arms. Check with the administration at your local schools to see what is needed. If you have ideas, don't be afraid to make suggestions.
Another good way to find about volunteer and community opportunities involving children is to seek out companies and organizations that might serve children. For instance, the Texas Farm Bureau helped third and fifth graders with a cabbage garden and a butterfly garden. This may sound small, but both are educational, as well as fun. From this type of activity, kids can learn about teamwork, learn gardening skills, learn to appreciate nature, get some exercise, as well as just plain have fun. Not all kids have opportunities like this on a daily basis.
Give Back at Work
Many companies give back to the community as well. Ask your boss if your company participates in volunteer work. One company that has an excellent volunteer program for its employees is The Home Depot. There are various ways Home Depot gives back to the community. Employees are encouraged to volunteer for The Home Depot Foundation (established in 2002). Home Depot associates (called Team Depot) can volunteer by building and restoring playgrounds, assessing and correcting safety and accessibility issues within the community, participating in affordable housing projects, helping with emergency preparedness, and more.
Look Up Various Shelters, Educational Assistance, and Other Programs
Perhaps there are adults in your area that don't yet have their high school diploma or GED. Rather than them paying high costs for classes, you may want to volunteer for tutoring. Oftentimes, shelters will offer programs to help people in this situation. If you would like to help, try going to your local shelters and asking administration about these programs.
Speaking of shelters, another way to volunteer and help those in need is by going to local shelters and asking about their greatest needs that a volunteer such as yourself would be able to provide. If they cannot think of any needs, but would like help somehow, you could make suggestions based on your talents and skills. For example, if you have experience counseling, you may want to provide counseling to families in tough situations, such as the youth at a shelter like Covenant House in Houston, TX.
No matter what type of volunteer work you choose, you can be sure that it will help someone in some way. Getting involved in the community is a great way to help others, gain character, and build a great resume. Not only can volunteering make the recipient of your efforts happy, but it also can lift your spirits as well.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
(this version updated 8/27/2015)
Does your teen need something to do? Volunteer work is an excellent way to prepare teens for the career world. It also gives them great references for college and an opportunity to make a difference. But where can teens volunteer? My teenager and I have been researching the options to decide which one is best for her. Volunteering is a rewarding experience. But it's important to do all the research and find out which program your teen is most suited to. Many programs have one or two day positions that would be a great way to test the waters in several programs before finding a more permanent one.
Working with animals is fun and rewarding. There are various opportunities for teens to do so. Rescue organizations, veterinarians, horse ranches, and more often allow teens to help out. Call around to the organizations in your area to see who needs help. My daughter and I learned that, depending on age, the nature of the opportunity, and each organization, an adult may need to volunteer along with the teen. Some opportunities may include cage cleaning, dog walking, playing with animals, socializing animals, and more.
Help out the elderly. Nursing homes and assisted living communities may welcome teens willing to help out. This could include a variety of tasks, such as playing games, pushing around a wheelchair, talking, and more. Some of these people will have little to no contact from relatives. Someone just being there to spend some time can make a world of difference for them. Even those who do have loved ones who visit, another visitor can really brighten their day. If there are no such communities in your area, there may be an older person you know who needs help with groceries, walking the dog, washing dishes, and other small tasks.
Pitch in for those in need. Teens can volunteer at sorting centers, soup kitchens, churches, and other organizations that help assist those in poverty or homeless. Each has different rules on the ages of volunteers and what they can do to help. Listings can be found under homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and churches. Not all churches have these types of programs, but many do. So if you can't find any shelters or other organizations in your area, call the churches.
Sharing knowledge helps fellow students. Tutoring other students in the subjects your teen excels in may be another option. This volunteer opportunity could be through your teen's school or through a private organization. Call the school first to see what is available there. If there is nothing available at the school or your child is homeschooled, call various educational organizations. Homeschool groups also may have opportunities for students to help each other. Some high schools may even have a class that allows students to help teachers in elementary or middle schools. I attended a class like this in high school and was able to assist a class of third grade students during their literacy block.
Search volunteer match programs. If the above options are not ideal or you have trouble finding them, try a volunteer match program. United Way and Red Cross are two good places to start in every area. They can help you find out some of what's available in your area and help get your teen started. There are also several great online volunteer matching sites that may assist your teen. Simply fill in interests, location info, and more to find the best volunteer programs for your teen. The application process may take place online or in person, depending on the organization.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network