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This Year, Volunteer
As one year ends and another begins, it's time to set some new goals. How will you use your time to have more fun, be more productive, and make 2007 a great year? One way to make a difference while hanging out with your friends and meeting new people is to volunteer.
Do it your way. Serve through your school, church, synagogue, or mosque. Volunteer on your own, or get together with your friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors. Join an existing project or create your own. Here's some help to get you started.
Volunteer individually or with a group.
Start a project right in your own neighborhood:
- Rally your neighbors to clean up an area park or the vacant lot down the street.
- Organize an activity for the kids in your neighborhood who have the day off from school.
- Paint an elderly neighbor's house or offer to shovel their driveway.
Volunteer as a family.
If you have the day off work and your kids don't have school, why not find a local problem you can tackle together? Volunteering as a family is an experience that can bring you closer together.
- Make a meal or buy groceries for a local Ronald McDonald House that supports families while their loved ones are being treated in hospitals.
- Create cards or simple crafts and bring them to a local nursing home.
- Sort through your family's clothing, toys, and books and put them aside to donate to children in need.
Don't want to go very far? If you have access to a computer and the necessary skills, you can "virtually" volunteer from the comfort of your home.
- Contact a local college and offer to type up a term paper for a student with a disability.
- Provide multimedia expertise to a small nonprofit -- prepare a PowerPoint or help design a newsletter.
- If you are bilingual, offer to translate a document into another language.
For step-by-step information that will take you from creating a community garden space to helping a senior by building an access ramp, visit Volunteer Projects 1-2-3. This site offers all you need to know to put together a meaningful, quality service project. You'll find materials calculators, a "Do-It-Yourself" glossary of terms, and a "How-To Basics" guide to help select and use the appropriate supplies.
Want to volunteer but aren't sure where to start? By consolidating many of the top volunteer search engines, Volunteer.gov, sponsored by the USA Freedom Corps, links to millions of volunteer opportunities in your community and nationwide.
In addition to being one of the leading websites for charitable giving, Network for Good has volunteer opportunities for individuals and tools for volunteer and donor management and advocacy for nonprofits.
VolunteerMatch provides volunteers with a comprehensive database of opportunities that can be searched based on location, interest area, skill set, or age.
Idealist allows individuals to search for volunteer and internship opportunities with organizations around the world. Volunteers can search by location or interest area and follow links to find contact information and instructions on how to get involved.
1-800-Volunteer from the Points of Light Foundation is another national database that brings together nonprofits and the volunteers they need. Volunteers can search by location and keyword for service opportunities in their interest areas.
Hands On Network allows individuals to search for local volunteer projects in their community. Every year, Hands On Network creates and manages nearly 50,000 projects.
Make a longer commitment.
The Corporation for National and Community Service has part-time and full-time service opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds. Earn money for college while serving with AmeriCorps, or if you're over 55, consider the Senior Corps. There's also City Year, which offers people age 17 to 24 a demanding year of community service and leadership development.
Volunteer in the Gulf region.
Louisiana and Mississippi continue to rebuild from the devastating hurricanes of 2005 and volunteers play a vital role in the recovery effort. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and the Hands On Gulf Coast welcome volunteers. A small grassroots organization, Emergency Communities, is seeking to fill gaps in traditional relief models by working to rehabilitate communities. And the Common Ground Collective is providing both short-term relief and long-term support in the New Orleans area.
Make the most of your volunteer experience.
To get the most out of your volunteer experience, Independent Sector offers ten tips for volunteering wisely, and Youth Service America has tip sheets for volunteers and organizations. Network for Good offers a toolkit for youth volunteers, Idealist offers resources for family volunteering, and VolunteerMatch provides online tools for corporate volunteering.