The goop Guide to Volunteering
The goop Guide
Corny though it may sound, it’s also a fact: Volunteering is good for us. It makes us happier, it makes us healthier, and it even makes us more attractive, according to one study in BMC Evolutionary Biology. But as with so many things that are good for us, it can be hard to know how—or where—to get started. We put together a list of some of our favorite organizations around the country: some small and local, others larger, with opportunities to help nationwide or online. Whether you can spare only a few hours or are ready to make a longer-term commitment, whether you want to read to kids or serve meals to the homeless or get your hands dirty on a farm, there’s an organization out there (by which we mean: right here) that will be thrilled to hear from you.
About the organization: Founded in 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center works to end homelessness for women in greater Los Angeles through housing, wellness, employment, and advocacy—it is the only resource in the city focused exclusively on serving currently and formerly homeless women. The DWC serves over 4,000 women annually and about 200 women daily in its Day Center, which provides clients with a place to rest, as well as three nutritious meals, access to clean bathrooms and showers, and a change of clothes. The DWC also offers case management services to link women to housing, health care, legal aid, and more. Volunteers are critical to the organization, and more than 5,000 people help out at the DWC each year, providing administrative support, day center assistance, donation sorting, kitchen assistance, learning center assistance, and more. There are also one-off group volunteering opportunities that include cooking club, donation sorting, and putting together snack packs, toiletry kits, or welcome home kits.
About volunteering: Volunteers at the DWC must be eighteen or and older, though younger volunteers can participate in off-site activities. Individual volunteers are required to attend a two-part training session and must make an eight-week commitment; most shifts are between two and four hours a week. For monthly activities, volunteers are asked to make a six-month commitment. No training or time commitment is required for those participating in one-off group projects, though a financial contribution is sometimes required to purchase the supplies needed for the activity. Group activities are typically about two hours in length. To get involved, visit the DWC’s website.
About the organization: In 2002, author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari opened a space to house both McSweeney’s Publishing Company and a writing and tutoring center to support overburdened teachers while connecting caring adults with the students who could use their help the most. It was at 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco. Today, there are 826 chapters in seven cities across the country, serving 30,000-plus students a year. 826LA is dedicated to supporting the creative and expository writing skills of students ages six to eighteen, as well as to helping teachers inspire their students to write. The services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. 826LA offers after-school tutoring, evening and weekend workshops, in-school tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. Volunteers may help by providing programming support, helping with design for publications, and more.
About volunteering: 826LA holds several Volunteering 101 orientation sessions each month, and you can sign up to attend one on its website. All volunteers must complete a background check through the Live Scan fingerprinting service (which you may do at the orientation session for $20). Some opportunities are open to volunteers as young as sixteen, and there is no long-term commitment required for any volunteer.
About the organization: In 2005, an idle acre and half at Los Angeles’s 24th Street Elementary School was set to be resurfaced. No news there. But a group of educators, neighbors, and parents envisioned something better for the space: a garden. They fought to change its future—and won. This victory spawned the Garden School Foundation, an organization that brings gardening and food education to Title 1 schools in Los Angeles. The school gardens are like huge, outdoor classrooms where students can take part in growing and cultivating the fruits and vegetables. The kids can also learn to cook with the organic ingredients via the foundation’s innovative Seed to Table curriculum. The teachers, organizers, and volunteers use the schools’ gardens—there are now seven in Los Angeles—as a way to make fresh food more accessible. (They also link the program to a boost in academic performance and well-being.) It’s rewarding, it’s immersive, and we’ll guess it’s one of the most fun classes a student gets to take.
About volunteering: Individuals or groups can work in the gardens, helping with watering, weeding, mulching, composting, and other projects. There’s really no exact role; prospective gardeners should be willing to get dirty (and learn a ton about kale and berries). Those interested are asked to contact the volunteer coordinator and be willing to participate in an informal interview and possible orientation.
About the organization: Founded in 1989, Heart of Los Angeles provides more than 2,300 underserved youth between the ages of six and twenty-four with exceptional free programs in academics, the arts, and athletics, with the goal of empowering them to develop their potential, pursue their education, and strengthen their communities. HOLA’s four-building campus around Lafayette Park in the Rampart District is a home away from home for thousands of kids. And through a unique partnership with the LA City Recreation and Parks Department, HOLA is also able to provide students living in poverty with much-needed green space—a FieldTurf soccer field, outdoor basketball courts, and a brand-new gym; these safe spaces are open year-round, offering young people a genuinely appealing alternative to hanging out on the streets. HOLA looks for volunteers with experience tutoring children in math, science, history, English, and writing or experience coaching basketball and soccer, as well as people who are interested in teaching music.
About volunteering: There is no age requirement for HOLA volunteers, though anyone younger than sixteen must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is a mandatory two-hour orientation session, which is held once a term, and volunteers must complete a background check through HOLA, which is free of cost to the volunteer. Those helping in the after-school programs are asked to commit to once- or twice-weekly sessions for the duration of a term (September through December, January through March, April through May, or June through August). Once you’ve signed up to volunteer, there are also various one-off opportunities throughout the year. If you are interested in helping out at HOLA, you can submit an interest form here or email the volunteer coordinator, Alyshia Gonzalez, at [email protected]
About the organization: Entrepreneur, activist, and spiritual legend Marianne Williamson (you may have listened to her on The goop Podcast) founded Project Angel Food in 1989 in Los Angeles. She wanted to help men, women, and children living with life-threatening diseases by giving them free, healthy meals. (The HIV community was in particular need of accessible, healthy food at the time.) The team cooks fresh meals in its Hollywood commercial kitchen and delivers them to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. More than 500,000 free meals make it to homes in Los Angeles each year, all of which are tailored to the recipients’ medical needs.
About volunteering: Since Project Angel Food is 80 percent volunteer-driven, there is always a huge opportunity to get involved. The program welcomes individuals and groups (a small goop gang recently spent an afternoon there—an experience we’d like to repeat soon). You can help with cooking, cleaning, administrative work…really any part of the operation.
About the organization: SPY was founded in 2011 by a group of dedicated volunteers, including founding executive director Alison Hurst, with a lofty mission: inspire, nurture, and empower the resilient human spirit of homeless youth by providing immediate and lasting solutions, one young person at a time. Its ethos is “Nothing about us without us,” meaning it strives to ensure that the work it does truly serves the young homeless population and that they have a voice. Volunteers are also a key component; this past year, they saved SPY over $180,000 in operational costs and supported SPY in serving over 1,300 homeless young people. Volunteers help by serving meals, organizing the clothing closet, coordinating showers, assisting members with editing their résumés and job searching, sorting donations, and providing support in the healing arts studio—by sitting at a table doing art with the kids, running a specific workshop, or teaching yoga or songwriting, for example.
About volunteering: The majority of SPY’s volunteer opportunities are scheduled during drop-in hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. All volunteers during drop-in must be eighteen or older. Volunteers must attend an orientation; a session is available once a month, usually on a Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The orientation educates volunteers on the trauma-informed care methodology SPY uses when working with youth members and gives them an overview of SPY and the youth homelessness issue. Volunteers are also required to complete Live Scan fingerprinting and a TB test.
About the organization: In 1980, Loaves & Fishes served its first meal of bread and fish to eleven adults and fifteen children. Since then, it has continued to provide hot, nutritious meals to low-income families and disadvantaged individuals, including children, seniors, veterans, students, and those who are disabled or homeless. All are welcomed, no questions asked. Volunteers help out in a variety of ways, including serving meals (Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.), working in the community garden (Fridays between 9 a.m. and noon), helping with the Grocery Bag program (the third Wednesday of each month from 8 a.m. to noon), and participating in the Team Building Cooking Experience.
About volunteering: Volunteers need to be able to walk around, stand still for an hour or so, and lift things like large trash bags, boxes of food, etc. Volunteers must be ten or older, and those younger than fourteen must be accompanied by an adult, though not all of the programs are open to all ages. There is no orientation required; training takes place during your first volunteer shift. No long-term commitment is necessary, and signing up is easy—you can check out available dates, times, and locations and sign up to help out on the Loaves & Fishes website or on Eventbrite.
About the organization: Roundup River Ranch, part of Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, was founded in 2006. The camp enriches the lives of children with serious illnesses and their families by offering free, medically supported programs that provide unforgettable opportunities to have fun, make friends, and boost confidence. More than 1,000 campers attend each year, enjoying activities such as canoeing, horseback riding, ziplining (on a zipline equipped with a special seat so that all kids can ride it), wall climbing, fishing, archery, and more. The camp offers full medical, physical, and emotional support from health care professionals, trained staff, and dedicated volunteers, so that campers and their families have the peace of mind to live in the moment and have fun. It welcomes both medical (physicians, nurses, pharmacists) and nonmedical (cabin leaders, kitchen staff, photographers) volunteers during camp sessions.
About volunteering: Volunteers must be at least nineteen years old. The application process includes a written application, three references, a background check, and an interview; in addition, because they will be working with seriously ill children, volunteers must provide documentation of their record of certain immunizations and complete a health history form. Once accepted, orientation and training requirements vary depending on the position.
About the organization: There are two things many of us don’t realize: 1) Even when we follow the rules in our public parks and trails, all of our footsteps add up to make a big impact that needs to be balanced with ongoing maintenance to ensure that our parks stay clean and our trails don’t erode or disturb the natural habitat. 2) With limited funds for maintenance, public land managers—such as the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, state park agencies, and local city and county programs—truly rely on volunteers to take care of these places. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado was founded in 1984 to motivate and enable people to become active stewards of Colorado’s (stunning) natural resources. VOC provides Coloradans ages six and up with a way to care for and give back to the parks, trails, and outdoor spaces they use on a regular basis. The work includes restoring or rebuilding trails, planting trees and urban vegetable gardens, removing invasive weeds, helping with fire and flood restoration, and more.
About volunteering: VOC hosts about sixty volunteer projects a year between April and October, and each is different. Some are simple planting or weed-pulling projects that are appropriate for kids as young as six. Others are more physically difficult (like removing barbed-wire fencing or building a trail at high altitude); these have a minimum age between ten and eighteen years old, depending on the activity. For safety reasons, volunteers need to be able to understand and respond to audio cues (in English), but VOC is happy to work with volunteers who have a prearranged interpreter or other communication method and want to participate on easier projects. There are also volunteer positions for those who don’t want to (or can’t) do manual labor, including photographers and camp cooks. No orientation is required, and the time commitment varies by project—from a few hours to a full day to a multiday trip.
About the organization: Bonton Farms was founded in August 2016 with the goal of using agricultural intervention to restore lives, create jobs, and ignite hope for marginalized and vulnerable people in a forgotten and neglected neighborhood. Volunteers help out on the farm with tasks like goat milking, chicken cooping, and plant harvesting. In November 2018, the farm opened the first market store in the community of Bonton on the south side of Dallas.
About volunteering: Volunteers must be twelve years old or older, though children as young as ten may volunteer if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. No orientation is required, and you can spend a much or as little time as you are willing to commit. Typical volunteer slots are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; if you’re interested in helping out you can simply register online. Wear comfortable, breathable clothes—and farm-appropriate (not white!) shoes.
About the organization: The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA/Dallas) raises funds for organizations that help in the fight against HIV/AIDS by providing preventive education programs, treatment, and direct care services for people living with or impacted by HIV and AIDS. The Dallas chapter, formed in 1984, is the only HIV/AIDS organization in Texas that provides funding to local HIV/AIDS service organizations. Volunteers may help out with day-to-day operations in the office or assist with the annual fund-raising event, which features a seated dinner and a fashion show.
About volunteering: Volunteers must be eighteen or older and speak English. There is no orientation for day-to-day in-office volunteering, and the time commitment is flexible. If you’d like to help out with annual fund-raiser, however, there is a training period of two to six hours a day over a three-day period.
About the organization: Founded in 2009, Dwell with Dignity is a small organization that is committed to helping families escape poverty and homelessness through design, one household at a time. DWD serves approximately thirty families each year, providing a complete home interior to a family every other week, including all furnishings, décor, two weeks’ worth of food in the pantry, and a hot meal on their first night in their new home—and the organization relies heavily on the support of their volunteers to achieve this.
About volunteering: Orientation is provided on-site at your first volunteering session, and each session typically lasts two to three hours; there is no long-term commitment required. A variety of opportunities for volunteers are available, including helping with home installations by ironing linens, setting up bedrooms, and preparing the kitchen; participating in studio work days; assembling DIY furniture; and sanding, painting, and creating custom art.
About the organization: New Friends New Life emerged in 1997 through the women’s committee of a local church. When an exotic dancer named Amy came to the church for counseling, the women of the church helped her find conventional employment and provided the support system she needed to make a fresh start. Amy began bringing friends to the church, and the group organized, under the name Amy’s Friends, to help women leave sexually oriented businesses. In January 2000, the organization incorporated as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, and in 2001, as New Friends New Life, it began providing services under the leadership of a board of directors, several of whom were in the original team of women who assisted Amy. Today, NFNL works with formerly trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and their children to help them overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty, and limited opportunities. The nonprofit provides access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, and mental health and spiritual support. It now also serves youth ages twelve to twenty-four (the drop-in center is at the same location but the services are completely separate from its services for formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women). And it has an even greater need for volunteers as it seeks to serve two separate and very different populations.
About volunteering: NFNL welcomes all kinds of volunteers: You can help by providing childcare or support at holiday events, birthdays, baby showers, block parties, and showcases, or by donating meals, snacks, or toiletries. NFNL is also in need of volunteers who are certified to teach different types of classes (art therapy, yoga, knitting, cooking, meditation, self-care, finances, budgeting, etc.). Volunteers must be eighteen or older, though minors may volunteer if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Volunteers must attend a general orientation (usually held the second Wednesday of each month) and an intensive training (usually the third Thursday of each month) before volunteering and must also complete a background check. The background check is completed online when you create an account on NFNL’s volunteer database.
About the organization: Founded in 2006, Open Books is a nonprofit that provides literacy experiences for tens of thousands of readers each year through inspiring programs and the creative capitalization of books. Through its Book Grants, it delivers thousands of books to schools and nonprofits across Chicagoland each week, providing readers of all ages with engaging, appropriate, high-quality books. Open Books’ literacy programs transform students’ reading and writing skills with the help of experienced educators and passionate volunteers; the programs provide safe learning environments for practice, exploration, and social-emotional growth, as well as access to high-quality books and tailored curricula. Funding for Open Books’ work comes in large part from the sale of donated books at its award-winning Pilsen and West Loop stores, online, and at special events. It also publishes all of its student writing—you can check out the work here. Open Books welcomes volunteers as reading coaches, writing coaches, and bookstore volunteers.
About volunteering: Open Books wants volunteers interested in an ongoing commitment. They must be eighteen or older and fluent in English. All potential volunteers must attend a general orientation before applying for an opportunity; for certain programs, an additional training will be required. After the orientation, they will be asked to submit an application and complete a background check. And those who will be supporting school-based programs are required by Chicago Public Schools to complete fingerprints with Accurate Biometrics. Reading coaches commit to an entire semester; they will be paired with one or two elementary school students and meet with them at a school for twice-weekly hour-long sessions. Writing coaches may sign up to help out in the ReadThenWrite program for an eight-week session with the same students, or in the Creative Writing Workshops, where they will attend two or three sessions a month, working with different students each time. Bookstore volunteers help with sorting, shelving, and mailing donated books. These shifts are two hours long and offer a greater degree of flexibility in when your shifts are scheduled.
About the organization: Pilot Light was founded in 2010 by four Chicago-based chefs who were inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move: Chefs Move to Schools campaign to stop childhood obesity. The idea is that a healthy relationship with food is a crucial part of every student’s development. With that in mind, Pilot Light partnered with chefs, educators, and behavioral experts to create food-centered lessons that align with Common Core state standards in math, science, and social studies. The lessons integrate food and nutrition education into existing curricula so teachers don’t have to find extra time in the day for them. The goal is to teach kids to make healthier food choices by connecting what they learn in their classrooms with the foods they eat—on their lunch trays, at home, in their communities. In addition to trained chefs, Pilot Light is always looking for volunteers with expertise in event planning, marketing and communications, public relations, and sales. It hosts food-related events throughout the year, and volunteers are also needed at these events to speak to guests about the organization’s mission or help with checking in guests, coat check, selling raffle tickets, and more.
About volunteering: Because many of the volunteering opportunities are at events where alcohol is served, Pilot Light prefers volunteers to be twenty-one or older. There is no formal training process, but all volunteers are given information about the organization’s mission. Any volunteers who will be spending time in a Chicago Public School must fill out a brief application that is processed by the district. There’s no fixed time commitment for volunteers: You can help out for a single event or make a longer-term commitment to participate throughout the year. Chef volunteers, however, are asked to lead one hour-long in-class cooking demonstration each quarter.
About the organization: Founded in 1969, Pine Street is the largest resource for homeless men and women in New England. It provides a comprehensive range of services, including permanent supportive housing (for 850 tenants in forty locations across Boston and Brookline), job training and placement, emergency shelter, and street outreach to nearly 2,000 homeless men and women each day. Volunteers support Pine Street Inn’s services in a variety of ways, from helping prepare or serve meals to hosting events such as bingo.
About volunteering: You can volunteer as an individual or as part of a group. All volunteers must be at least fifteen years old; individuals must fill out an application, pass a CORI background check, and attend an orientation session (two are held each month); group volunteers need neither go through orientation nor complete an application.
About the organization: Since 1986, the Association to Benefit Children has been dedicated to defending the right of every child to a joyful and nurturing childhood. ABC’s comprehensive, cost-effective, and sustainable programs serve New York City’s most vulnerable children and families; they include the highest-quality early-childhood education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers; educational advocacy; permanent, supportive housing; crisis intervention; health and mental health services; family support and preservation services; year-round therapeutic youth programs; a summer day camp; and a Saturday program that is an open door to the community, providing refuge and resources for destitute families. Many programs welcome volunteers, whose primary responsibility is to play with and nurture children, assisting classroom teachers. Specific duties vary depending on the needs of each classroom: For example, in ABC’s infant programs, volunteers may be needed to hold, feed, and sing to the children. In toddler and preschool classrooms, volunteers may be asked to help with storytelling, reading, painting, arts and crafts, and supervising the children as they enjoy free play in one of ABC’s outdoor playgrounds.
About volunteering: Schedules are set to meet both the needs of both the volunteers and the classrooms. Each early-childhood program has an on-site volunteer coordinator, who provides orientation and training. Volunteers who are students should be no younger than high school age, although there are opportunities for younger children to volunteer in the Saturday Program. All volunteers must provide references and an up-to-date medical record, and for volunteers eighteen and over, fingerprinting and criminal clearance are also required. If you are interested in volunteering with ABC, email [email protected]
About the organization: The Central Park Conservancy was formed in 1980 by a group of citizens determined to reverse the decline of Central Park with the aid of private philanthropy and citizen involvement in its governance. Today, the Conservancy manages Central Park and raises the Park’s annual operating budget. The Conservancy is responsible for all aspects of the park’s stewardship, from day-to-day maintenance to restoration and rebuilding projects. The Conservancy also operates the park’s visitor centers, provides public programs, and serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. “People often don’t realize that Central Park’s incredibly diverse 843 acres are entirely man-made, an engineered space that requires an incredible amount of infrastructure and work to sustain and keep beautiful, especially with the demands of 42 million annual visitors,” says Andrea Buteau, the Conservancy’s director of visitor experience. “Our volunteers do a tremendous amount of work, and we depend on them.”
About volunteering: Opportunities are available for all ages and abilities. Physically capable volunteers may work on horticulture and maintenance projects, including raking, mulching, pulling weeds, planting, and trash removal. Volunteers can also serve as greeters and tour guides—those who are multilingual are particularly useful in these roles. There are two drop-in programs (the Saturday Green Team and Seasonal Teams) for which volunteers may simply sign up online and receive on-site training. Pitch In, Pick Up is another drop-in program and is a great way to spend time in the park while helping to keep it clean and beautiful. After a brief orientation at one of the visitor centers, you are given a trash grabber, gloves, and garbage bag for litter. Keeping It Green, a volunteer program for families with children, runs from April through June. Families can sign up in advance to help out during a ninety-minute Sunday session. If you are interested in making an ongoing commitment, two regularly scheduled volunteer programs (Gardener’s Assistant Program and Greeter Program) require a commitment of three hours each week; these volunteers will need to attend an open house and also complete some training before their program begins. If you’re interested in learning more or signing up, the Conservancy holds volunteer open houses in the spring, summer, and early fall; you may also email [email protected] or check out the different opportunities on the Conservancy’s website.
About the organization: Girls Write Now was founded in 1998 to help young female writers. The organization mentors underserved young women, helping them find their voices through the power of writing and community. One hundred percent of the program’s participating seniors go on to college. There are opportunities for volunteers to serve as mentors, workshop facilitators, event planners for fund-raisers, keynote speakers at readings, designers to help with invitations and visuals, and more.
About volunteering: If you live in NYC and are interested in mentoring, enrollment is open from April 1 until June. If you are chosen, you will begin weekly one-on-one sessions with your mentee in early fall. If you live outside of NYC, you can email [email protected] to learn about the volunteer opportunities in your area. You can also help support the GWN by purchasing its recently published anthology, which features work by girls who have participated in the program over the twenty years, as well as advice to young women from Roxane Gay, Zadie Smith, Gloria Steinem, Janet Mock, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and more. (Even better—you can get it at goop-favorite bookstore Books Are Magic.)
About the organization: North Shore Animal League America is the world’s largest rescue and adoption organization—and will celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2019. It is also the shelter that pioneered humane relocation more than thirty years ago: meaning it rescues animals from overcrowded municipal shelters, locally and across the country, and brings them to its campus, where they find loving, responsible homes. This template is now used by rescue organizations large and small across the country and around the world. A number of different volunteer opportunities are available, including helping in the adoption center with feeding, cleaning, dog walking, training and obedience, or manning the phones; assisting with mobile adoption events or fund-raising online; or fostering animals (like North Shore’s most famous volunteer, Beth Stern, whose Instagram posts of her foster cats could sway even the most committed dog person).
About volunteering: Volunteers must be sixteen or older and must complete an orientation program. You have to commit to four hours a week, and if you don’t live in the New York area, you can become a virtual volunteer through North Shore’s AniPals program, helping to get the word out about the organization’s adoptable animals, programs, and events.
About the organization: There are nearly 3 million miles of rivers nationwide, and they provide more than two thirds of our drinking water. Forty-five years ago, American Rivers was founded on the belief that how we treat our rivers has a clear and direct impact our own health. To this day, the organization is dedicated to protecting wild rivers, restoring damaged rivers, and keeping our waterways clean for us and for the natural world. Its website offers tips on helping rivers and conserving water at home, and it welcomes volunteers to execute its mission in the community.
About volunteering: One of American Rivers’ key initiatives is National River Cleanup, which offers volunteers the opportunity to help with the physical process of cleaning the waterways. These events are open to all; you can find a cleanup to join or organize your own. Organizers are given special tips and a handbook on how to lead a safe, fun, and successful river cleanup; no prior training is needed for those joining an existing cleanup. Some events last all day; some, a couple hours. Some are conducted on land—volunteers walk along the riverbank and pick up trash. Others use rafts and canoes to cover a larger stretch of water. Volunteers are also needed to email or call decision makers when threats to clean water and rivers emerge. You can sign up on the American Rivers website to join the list and they’ll let you know when your voice is needed.
About the organization: Founded in 2012 in Dallas, the Birthday Party Project’s mission is to make homeless children happy through the magic of birthdays. To date, the organization has celebrated 7,000 parties with more than 40,000 children. With the help of birthday enthusiasts (volunteers), TBPP hosts monthly parties at homeless and transitional living facilities across the country. Each birthday child receives a gift and cake, and all residents staying at the agency get to participate in the themed birthday bash.
About volunteering: TBPP started in Dallas, but has since expanded and volunteering opportunities are available around the country. Birthday parties are one hour, and the volunteer commitment is two hours—thirty minutes to set up, one hour for the party, and thirty minutes to clean up. Volunteering is open to anyone three or older, and you may volunteer on your own or in a group, with family, friends, coworkers. Each volunteer is asked to complete a quick background check to meet the requirements of TBPP’s agency partners. If you are unable to volunteer in person, you can still participate in the project by sponsoring a Birthday in a Box: Each $50 box provides case managers all the supplies they need to throw a party for their kids. If you are interested in volunteering in person or donating a Birthday in a Box, you can complete the background questionnaire and sign up for a party or donate a box on TBBP’s website.
About the organization: Canine Companions for Independence is the first organization to train assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. Founded in 1975 in a garage in Northern California, the organization now has six training centers serving over 6,000 people with disabilities in all fifty states. It provides trained assistance dogs to enhance independence and give ongoing support to children and adults with disabilities—including veterans—entirely free of charge. The exceptional dogs trained by Canine Companions know over forty commands, including how to pull a manual wheelchair to conserve energy, alert their companions to important sounds in the environment, retrieve items as small as a dime, or wake someone from a nightmare from post-traumatic stress. The work the nonprofit does is life-changing for people with disabilities. And it can be just as life-changing for volunteers, who are welcome to help out in many roles, from office assistant to puppy raisers, dog bathers to event committee chairs.
About volunteering: Volunteers attend a one-time orientation to learn more about the nonprofit’s mission, guidelines, and more. The time commitment varies depending on the type of work you’d like to do. If you love dogs, you can volunteer as a puppy raiser: Take a fluffy puppy home at eight weeks old and provide basic obedience training and important socialization before returning the dog for professional training by certified instructors. Puppy raisers need to be a least eighteen, but families are encouraged to take on this amazing opportunity with a parent as the main raiser. It’s okay if you’ve never trained a dog or even never had a pet—puppy raisers work closely with Canine Companions every step of the way. If you’re not ready to bring a dog into your home, volunteers are also needed to take puppies to weekly obedience classes, and there are other opportunities that allow you to help out on a one-off basis, for a few hours at a time. In addition, there are thirty-five volunteer chapters nationwide that help fund-raise, spread awareness, and educate the public on assistance dogs. A national event, DogFest, takes place at twenty-five-plus locations across the country; it’s a great opportunity to lend support by becoming a committee member or creating a fund-raising team.
About the organization: Founded in 2008 by Gretchen and Larry Witt, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer raises funds for research to develop new, improved, and less toxic treatments for pediatric cancer. The nonprofit provides inspiration and support for individuals, businesses, and organizations to raise funds by hosting bake sales and other fund-raising events. One of the best parts about the organization is that kids can help other kids their own age who are undergoing cancer treatment by holding bake sales or other kinds fund-raisers in their neighborhoods and schools.
About volunteering: As soon as you sign up to organize a fund-raiser, a Cookies for Kids’ Cancer team member will be in touch to serve as your point of contact and provide the marketing materials, online tools, and as much one-on-one guidance as you need. You can also hold an online fund-raiser through the nonprofit’s website, or simply support the organization by purchasing cookies (100 percent of the proceeds funds research) or making a direct donation to the pediatric research area of your choice.