What Can a Volunteer Do?

Volunteering ideas are endless. Here are some to help you get started:
Medicine/Healthcare
If the medical or healthcare field intrigues you, consider:
  • volunteering at a local blood bank, medical clinic for the poor, nursing home, emergency medical squad, or cancer or AIDS facility,
  • collecting toys or books for or entertaining kids in the hospital, or
  • participating in walkathons or other fundraising activities to fight major diseases or to provide medical care for those who can't afford it.

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Animals
If animals are your passion, you can:
  • work at your local zoo, animal shelter, or humane society cleaning cages, feeding and exercising the "residents," assisting with adoptions, working in the office, or planning fundraising events,
  • raise a guide dog for a blind person, or
  • work at a nature refuge or nature habitat to work on awareness campaigns or fundraising activities.

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Reading
If you enjoy reading, you've got a skill that's easy to share. You can:
  • read stories to children at a community shelter (for the homeless or abused),
  • set up a story hour at your local library, children's hospital, or Head Start program,
  • read to an elderly neighbor or blind person, or
  • volunteer at a local organization that needs readers for a "talking books" program.

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Art
If your heart is in the arts, you can share your talents by:
  • doing art projects at senior centers, shelters, daycare centers, local parks, or recreation programs,
  • creating stage props and costumes for a local theater,
  • offering assistance at a local gallery or arts center, or
  • presenting skits, musical revues, magic shows, concerts, or other entertainment at senior homes, hospitals, or community facilities.

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Sports
Share your athletic talents by coaching Little League, swimming, softball, basketball, soccer, tennis, gymnastic, or other sports in low-income areas. Many volunteer organizations such as the YMCA, the Red Cross, and local civic organizations (the Elks, Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions clubs) advertise for such help.

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Helping People with Disabilities
If you want to be a special friend to people with mental or physical disabilities, consider:
  • helping with local, regional, or state Special Olympics competitions, or
  • planning field trips to museums and amusement parks, recreation and sports activities, or arts and crafts programs for local groups and residential facilities for people with disabilities.
Not only will your skills contribute to the programs, but you may help change public perception about people who have special challenges.

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Helping the Environment
Preserving the planet is an important issue. You can help by starting different types of recycling programs in your neighborhood or school. Past honorees have set up programs for recycling tires, motor oil, telephone books, greeting cards, Christmas trees, and computer ink cartridges.

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Law Enforcement
If you have an interest in police work as a career, or are concerned about crime in your community, consider:
  • working with your local police department to set up a neighborhood or school watch program,
  • talking with your principal or school counselor about establishing a student patrol that keeps an eye out for and reports theft, graffiti, and other crimes in your school,
  • educating other young people about avoiding drugs, dealing with strangers, or staying safe on the Internet, and
  • taking part in "teen court" justice systems that operate in many cities.

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Helping People in Need
Community projects and church-affiliated organizations such as Habitat for Humanity need volunteers to:
  • construct housing for the poor, or
  • prepare or distribute food at soup kitchens.
Past projects by honorees include:
  • planting and tending a garden, and then donating the fruits and vegetables to a local food bank, or selling them to earn money for your favorite charity, and
  • school or community campaigns to collect food, clothing, books, toys, school supplies, eyeglasses, toiletries, backpacks, and holiday gifts for the disadvantaged.

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Spreading the Word
Perhaps you'd like to educate fellow students about an issue that's important to you. For example, you could:
  • warn fellow students about drug or alcohol abuse, AIDS, or negative peer pressure,
  • promote important ideals such as racial tolerance, a clean environment, or traffic safety, or
  • put together an educational presentation and take it to schools in your area, or launch a general awareness campaign in your community.

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Cleaning Up Your Town
Here are some earthy ideas to sink your hands into:
  • planting trees and flowers in public parks, along walkways, or in downtown areas,
  • beautifying your school grounds,
  • cleaning up litter on a regular basis from neighborhood streets, local streams, highway shoulders, and other public places, or
  • offering to help paint over graffiti on school or city property.

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Working with Kids
If you like helping other kids or are considering a teaching career, look into:
  • working as a tutor or mentor through your school or a community center,
  • being a counselor at a day camp,
  • helping out at children's hospitals, daycare centers, shelters, programs for "latchkey" kids, homework tutoring phone lines, and Big Brother or Sister programs,
  • setting up a program at city or county courtrooms for children who must come to court with a parent, or
  • organizing a "camp" to get local children involved in sports, music, science, theatre, gardening, or other activity.

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Your Own Special Brand of Help
If you want to do something in your own special way, put on your creative thinking cap. Brainstorm with friends, or form a volunteering club at your school that can work on a wide variety of service projects. You'll be surprised at what you can do.

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