When we have conversations with people about our annual volunteer vacations (read about our latest one here and here), they are curious about how it all goes down. They almost always want to know how do we pick the countries; is it safe; what do we do there; how long do we stay; and how much does it cost. We usually end the conversation with them saying something like, “I wish I could help people,” or “I could never do something like that.” They want to help or be involved in improving peoples’ lives, but they don’t want to go somewhere to do it. Since we love to travel, we don’t mind the “getting there and being there” part. Travel isn’t for everyone. I certainly get that. However, there are still lots of ways, both big and small, that everyone can volunteer in their own communities. Here are just a few:
Habitat for Humanity
Many towns have a Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and they are always in the need for help. You can volunteer in their Restore if they have one, do clerical work, donate items for the Restore, and help build houses. When you think of building a house, that wounds overwhelming, but if you break it down into small steps, it isn’t. You can hammer a nail, saw a piece of wood, paint a wall, clean up construction debris, cook a meal for other volunteers, rake a lawn, plant spring bulbs to surprise the new homeowners, and more.
Join a Club or Organization
I belong to two civic minded organizations and volunteer through them. One is a garden club, and the other raises funds to support our philharmonic orchestra. I have held offices in both clubs and have met life-long friends. My garden club maintains the garden at a historic home here that is open for tours, and we are expected to work in the garden a certain number of hours March through October. Although I am not as involved in either club as much now as when I was earlier, they both have been a joy to be involved in.
Girls on the Run
Jordan has been involved in this group in the past. They encourage young girls to run in races to help build physical fitness, confidence, and give them a goal to work towards.
Read to Children
Many schools need volunteers to help children with their reading and school work. There are also community organizations that help with that. Here in Lexington we have volunteer opportunities at the Carnegie Center, so check on something like that in your town. Churches also offer tutoring after school for children.
Donate Your Magazines
I deliver my monthly decorating magazines to a local nursing home for women so that they, too, can enjoy them.
Volunteer as a Docent
Historic homes and art museums are always looking for people to help out. If you don’t want to give tours, perhaps you could work in the gift shop or sell tickets. It’s a great way to meet people who are visiting your town, and they appreciate talking to locals.
Interview a Veteran
Our son lives in Washington, DC, and he volunteers at a military hospital by interviewing and recording conversations with World War II veterans. He then takes the recording to the Library of Congress where it is filed away. If there are veterans where you live, you can do this, too. My son says the vets’ stories are fascinating.
Mentor a Refugee Family
The number of refugees in our country is growing, and they can be successful and thrive if they can acclimate into a community faster. Volunteer to help them learn about life in America. It might be as simple as teaching them how to do laundry with automatic washers and dryers, how to shop for groceries, how to use the bus system, or how to complete paper work. Help them find an English tutor, or maybe tutor them on your own. It is a pure joy to watch them grow and become stable. Read about one of our success stories here.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels was a huge help last year when my mother broke her hip. She and Daddy live in a rural community which is eight hours from where we live. Although my brother lives near them, it was a huge relief to know that meals would be delivered to them as long as Mother was unable to cook. They have volunteer opportunities in many towns and cities and I’m sure they could use your help.
I am sure you all have lots of other suggestions, so just put them in the comments section, and maybe you can inspire someone to donate a few hours now and then to helping others. It will make you feel better than you know.