Here are some of my favorite ways to volunteer:
- Chicago Cares (I'm pretty sure there's a DC Cares as well). You can sign up for one-time projects. This is perfect for people like me who travel and can't commit to doing something every week.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America - I suggest you walk into a club though vs. e-mailing. They are SO slow on e-mail. Find your local B&GC here.
- Church - A lot of churches do community outreach, but they don't always publicize it. Call your church's office and ask how you can volunteer with them or for them.
- Soup Kitchens - If you see a lot of homeless people standing around a church or community center around 4 or 5 p.m., it's likely that the place has a soup kitchen (and it's really not a soup kitchen. I've never once served soup at these things. I digress). Write the number down, call and ask how you can help. One of my faves in Chicago is the Ravenswood Pantry.
- Women's Shelters - It's SO easy to volunteer for women's shelters. They ALWAYS need cosmetic products and clothes - something I know the ladies love to shop for. So the next time you go shopping, get one for you and one for a women's shelter (or one for you and a travel size for the women's shelter) and drop it off. My favorite women's shelter in Chicago to volunteer/donate is Deborah's Place.
- Walks and Runs - Pick your cause (AIDS/HIV, Breast Cancer, Multiple Schlerosis), find out when their annual walk or run is and sign up to volunteer. You'll be doing things like signing people in, giving runners drinks and encouraging runners. It's a great way to get involved. My favorite Walk is the AIDS Walk/Run in Chicago.
- Pick a Fave - Finally, pick a nonprofit organization who's mission you align with, call their office and ask how you can help. They'll have you do everything from cooking, cleaning and filing paperwork to planning, staffing and publicizing their events.
There are SO many ways to get involved and it's so easy. Let me know how you decide to volunteer in 2012. Actually, don't wait until 2012. Do it now!!!