Volunteering isn’t just about doing good and beating Minneapolis at things (though both of those are important.) Sometimes, volunteering is as much about building community as it is, say, building houses. That’s what I love about the folks at Back On My Feet: their focus is on working with people, not for them.
I’ve been injured and not able to attend morning runs for much of 2011, but impending recovery put me back out on the roads last Saturday morning. Catching up with my morning running pals was great — both the non-residents (volunteers) and the residents (the folks we work with) welcomed me back into the fold with open arms. I was thrilled to be there. Running at 6am? A great way to make friends.
So, you want to make friends but you’re non-athletic and bad at coming up with catchy team names? Get out and help!
How to begin? I’ve named a few organizations in the past who would love to have some help. There are a few ways to think of what you might be seeking. You could identify a cause, identify an activity, or identify an experience.
Find a Cause:
I linked up with the American Liver Foundation after my uncle received a lifesaving transplant. I care about building stronger communities, so ONEin3 was a great place for me to start blogging. Do you love children? Try Horizons for Homeless Children, Foundation for Faces of Children, Children’s Hospital Boston, or Home for Little Wanderers. An animal fan? Try the Boston Animal Rescue League. Have a commitment to the HIV/AIDS community? Check out Boston Living Center. If you always respect your elders, FriendshipWorks may be just the ticket.
Find an Activity:
I like to run. Finding a running group that would afford me the opportunity to also build community was a perfect fit. (And if anyone’s interested, they’ve got a new team starting in Somerville. Sign up for an orientation, pronto!) My cousin likes to ski, so she combined skiing, teaching, and fun at YES. If you’re artistic, see what the MFA has to offer. Whatever it is you like to do with your time, you can probably do it to help someone else.
Find an Experience:
Looking to meet new people? Go for volunteer opportunities that will keep you in groups. Less tutoring, more neighborhood cleanup, perhaps. Trying to gain skills? Call up Greater Boston Legal Services if you’re an attorney. Check out your state and local officials’ district offices or campaign people. Call a hospital if you’ve got a medical background. No matter what you do, you can find a way to do it for free. Seriously. I challenge you to challenge me on that. Want to have a voice? Shoot us an email and offer to blog for us. We’re no 501c3, but we like to have volunteers, too!
Find the time to find those things!
I just gave you a whole bunch of ideas, most of which I got through a quick google search. But ask around! Jump on Twitter, ask us & the universe! Just the other day I saw a local blogger on Twitter asking about Back On My Feet — she hadn’t realized that they have a Quincy chapter. You better believe I responded (pronto!), and even tried to link her up with one of my other fave local blogstars who is a runner with BOMF. We have social networks, people! Use them for good, not Zuckerbergian evil!
So there you have it. You know what they say about volunteering: it doesn’t pay. But it does give you the chance to make friends, gain skills, and give back. And beat Minnesota.
Got volunteer advice? Are you a cause seeking volunteers or a volunteer seeking a cause? Have you met your best friend, your future spouse, or your future boss through volunteering? Or do you just want us to be way better than MN? Share it in the comments.