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Volunteering

Discover the range of volunteering opportunities available.

Many people opt to volunteer in a particular field for which they have a passion. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Many people opt to volunteer in a particular field for which they have a passion.

While volunteering is often thought of as an activity that involves carrying out a duty or service, many people opt to volunteer in a particular field for which they have a passion. It is not uncommon for people who enjoy interactions with children to be involved in organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Likewise, people who are wine enthusiasts may sit on their city or town planning board for the local wine festival. There are many other volunteer opportunities available for a wide range of hobbies, all of which allow volunteers to combine community service with personal interest.

Volunteering to Help America's Youth

Volunteering with America's youth is one way to help build the future. There are a variety of opportunities available, ranging from serving as a mentor to helping kids with cancer. One of the most well-known mentor programs is Big Brothers Big Sisters, which matches adults with children who are in need of a mentor. After a careful selection process, adults meet with a particular child on a weekly basis. Meetings occur through a community-based mentoring program or a school-based program. There are also specific mentoring programs, including African American Mentoring, Hispanic Mentoring, Amachi Mentoring and Native American Mentoring.

Ronald McDonald House Charities offers several programs that serve to improve the health and well-being of children. The organization includes three core programs: Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. More than 30,000 volunteers help maintain these programs through various activities, such as setting up play areas for children, preparing meals for children and families, organizing movie and pizza nights, and maintaining grounds around homes.

Volunteering to Build Homes

Habitat for Humanity has built more than 300,000 homes around the world, providing housing for more than 1.5 million people. Volunteers may work in their communities to build homes or may opt to travel through short-term or long-term mission trips. Homes for our Troops is an organization that raises money and builds homes for severely disabled servicemen and women.

Volunteering Opportunities for Film Enthusiasts

Film enthusiasts do not have to leave their passion for the big screen at the local movie theater. Various communities across America host film festivals on an annual basis. Perhaps the most well-known festival is the Sundance Film Festival, which is held annually in Park City, Utah. Approximately 1,200 full-time and part-time volunteers are selected from a pool of 2,000 applications. Benefits include a festival uniform, festival admission, access to volunteer events and formal recognition. Festival organizers use volunteers in various departments, such as accounting, logistics, merchandise, press, production and theatre operations.

There are other film festivals across America that use volunteers, such as the Miami International Film Festival, the annual Austin Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Working with the Fine Arts

Anyone with a passion for art or music may find a volunteer niche at a local museum or music venue. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County needs volunteers to greet guests at the front door and work beside curators. There are opportunities for adults and youth.

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., relies on volunteers to help in various areas, such as working at the information desk, serving as a teacher guide for students or answering questions from callers to the museum.

For those who are interested in music, the Nashville Symphony offers a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from singing with the Nashville Symphony Chorus to serving as a dress rehearsal usher or a Young People's Concert volunteer.

The Phoenix Symphony offers a similar volunteer program, including the opportunity to share a love of music with elementary students through a mentoring program.

Volunteering in the Outdoors

Outdoor enthusiasts may want to look for opportunities to volunteer outside. The American Hiking Society offers volunteer vacations in 30 states. Volunteers work for one week completing various tasks, such as clearing trails and building structures.

Volunteer Outdoors is another organization that connects willing outdoor volunteers to agencies needing assistance. One sample project involves clearing an 8-mile trail system in Colorado. Volunteers can camp free of charge or can book a room at a luxury resort for a reduced rate. The National Park Service offers volunteer opportunities, as well. During 2005, 137,000 volunteers manned information desks, provided conservation information and led educational tours in America's national parks.

Medical Volunteering

There is a great need for volunteers in America's hospitals, nursing facilities and hospice care centers. People who enjoy helping the sick or elderly should consider volunteering for one of these organizations. Local hospitals and nursing home facilities have their own volunteer programs. Hospice relies on volunteers to provide support services, such as companionship, bedside sitting, active listening, friendly visiting and letter writing. Volunteers also share special interests with patients and support family members by assisting with errands, transporting patients or helping with household tasks.

Spreading a Love of Reading

The Reading is Fundamental program, otherwise known as RIF, operates with the help of 450,000 volunteers. Opportunities for volunteers include, but are not limited to, selecting and ordering books, organizing and participating in book drives, reading books to children, telling stories, raising funds and conducting reading opportunities. Someone with a true passion for reading may also want to consider volunteering to host a book drive with Worldwide Book Drive. Thus far, the Worldwide Book Drive has donated 394,401 books.

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