It’s summertime! That means beaches, barbecues, long-awaited vacations and… volunteering?
We already know all the things that make summer so wonderful, but this year, why not add something new to that list? Don’t know where to start?
Here are five easy ways to find your volunteering niche this summer:
- Clean House and Take Action
- Go through your pantry and fill a box with nonperishable goods that you could do without. Summer is actually the time of year when food pantry activity is at its highest, since children don’t have access to school lunch and breakfast programs. Now, instead of just dropping the box off at your local food pantry, schedule time to volunteer. There are plenty of food pantries looking for volunteers to sort, pack and distribute food to the people who depend on them. Want to learn more? Organizations like Feeding America are committed to ending hunger, and they provide information about the effects of hunger in the United States and ways to advocate for those in need.
- Rid your closets and drawers of the clothing you don’t want or need. Chances are, you’ve accumulated clothing that you have outgrown or may not wear anymore. After it is sorted, drop off your clothes at the nearest donation center. Think: Salvation Army and Goodwill. Donate your office attire to an organization like Dress For Success that collects professional clothing for people who are looking for jobs. These charities also rely on volunteers for help, so make some time to get involved this summer.
- Give Your Time
- Become a youth mentor Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is always looking for mentors for young people. You could really make a difference by offering your time and life experience to a young person looking for guidance. If you have a passion for education, consider becoming a volunteer tutor. United Way Worldwide can help match you with a student based on your skills, interests and schedule.
- If you’re handy around the house, consider volunteering as a handyman for the elderly. This article highlights different handyman volunteer programs across the country. There are plenty of local organizations dedicated to offering a helping hand to elderly people who live on a fixed income and are no longer able to do small household tasks on their own. Do a little online research to find an opportunity in your community.
- Many parishes host Vacation Bible School (VBS) during the summer. VBS is generally a short-term commitment, spanning one to two weeks. If you’re great with children, this may spark your interest. VBS offers a fun and safe place to go, while simultaneously nourishing children’s faith. To volunteer at a VBS near you, talk to the director of children’s ministry at your parish.
- Love Your Neighborhood
- Find a Community trash pick-up in your area. Keep America Beautiful will show you how to organize your own community pick-up and get you connected to a local clean-up organization. Also, check out the nature preserves in your area, and see if they need any volunteers to help keep the place litter-free and beautiful.
- Consider joining a community garden or starting one. Not only are community gardens beneficial to the environment, they can also spruce up the neighborhood and make a healthy lifestyle more attainable for others. Participating in a community garden will also reduce the amount of money you spend on fruits and veggies. The USDA’s People’s Garden website offers all kinds of information and resources relating to community gardens and how you can get started.
- Recycle! Just like trash pick-up day, most places have a recycle pick-up day. Buy a couple of recycling bins and find out when your neighborhood’s recycling gets picked up — or where you can drop things off.
- Stamp Your Passport
- Are you in it for the long haul? Willing to take this volunteering thing international? Check out opportunities to serve with Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Catholic Relief Services. Both organizations are committed to national and international service projects. Volunteering without borders is not only a life-changing experience for you, but also a chance to impact the lives of so many others.
- Don’t Quit
- If you have a passion for serving others, why stop after summer is done? There are lots of places where you can get plugged into even more service projects, like your local parish, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Volunteer Network. If the volunteer bug has bitten you, they’ve got you covered. If you’re still looking for volunteer opportunities that suit your personal interests, Volunteer Match can help you.