5 of the Best Volunteer Organizations

There are many reasons to volunteer in your community.  Whether your teenager needs volunteer hours, or you’re looking for a way to teach your younger kids the beauty of giving, volunteering is a great way to step outside your world and change the lives of others.

Below is a very limited list of the organizations you can volunteer for.  They are organizations in which I have had personal experiences with and can offer the most information, but there are MANY organizations in need of your help.   If you’d like to add your organization, please do so in the comments.

  1.  The Humane Society and Animeals

2.  Special Olympics

3.  Local Hospitals

4.  Meals on Wheels

5.  Local Food Pantry

 

  1. Humane Society (http://www.humanesociety.org)  

I love the Humane Society because they offer various opportunities to all ages who would like to make the life of a furry friend happier.  From age 7 to 70 the Human Society has an opportunity for you!

YOUNG VOLUNTEERS:  The Human Society has various opportunities for young people to get involved by helping animals who were abandoned or don’t have a home.  After completing a volunteer form and an orientation, youngsters between the ages of 7-14 can start feeding, playing, and caring for the animals at the Human Society.  Although a guardian must be with the child during volunteering, this is an organization that accepts younger children as volunteers.

If your teenager is looking to complete hours for school, or jump out of their world for a few hours and support their community, the Humane Society accepts volunteers between the ages of 15-18.  They are asked to take a 2-3 hour shift per week.  Responsibilities include animal enrichment and animal care.  There are also adoption events and other activities they can take part in.

ADULT VOLUNTEERS:  There are many ways for an adult willing to give 2-4 hours of their time per week to care for animals at the Humane Society.  My favorite one is ANIMEALS.  It’s meal delivery service for animals of elderly and disabled people who may not have the financial means to support their pet (but definitely have the love).  My brother is a volunteer and it’s as easy as picking up the dog food from the Humane Society and delivering it along your route.  It just takes him a few hours on Saturday.  You must be 18 or over with a valid driver’s license to help with Animeals.

My local chapter can be found at humanesocietyofpinellas.org/volunteer but if you’re not in the Pinellas area try searching from their main page at humansociety.org

  1.  Special Olympics (http://www.specialolympics.org)

There are various organizations for those wanting to be involved in helping those with intellectual disabilities.  From Big brothers, Big Sisters (https://www.bbbs.org) to Best Buddies (https://bestbuddies.org) the reward in becoming a partner to these amazing humans, will come back to you tenfold.  I have chosen Special Olympics as an organization I participate in because my kids can get involved AND I worked with an amazing group of teachers who give not only their time, but their whole hearts to these athletes.  At first I found it a little difficult to find out where I was needed but after attending a few events, I can pass along some information that will help you get involved a little easier.

YOUNG VOLUNTEERS:  

First, many Special Olympic programs run during the school day so ask your child’s school if they have students who participate in Special Olympics.  If they do, that’s the easiest route to get your child involved.  You child can choose a sport offered that season and play alongside their buddy or they can help track, measure, or just cheer them on.

ADULT VOLUNTEERS:  

If you play or coach a certain sport, Special Olympics can use your experience.  I believe that mentoring or working with an athlete on Special Olympics will give you the greatest reward but there are various area and regional competitions throughout the year that need volunteers.  Contact Special Olympics at specialolympics.org

*If you’re in the Pinellas area contact  sopinellas@aol.com

  1.  Hospital Volunteer https://www.floridahospital.com/children/experience/volunteer

Hospitals have a variety of opportunities caring for the sick and elderly.  I choose the children’s hospitals because I personally love working with kids.  While volunteering at hospitals can make you appreciate life, it can be difficult caring for people at the end of theirs.  Make sure you consider this before signing up, or signing up with your child.  Just call or google your local hospital to find the volunteer opportunities available in your area.

YOUNG VOLUNTEERS:

This all depends on the hospital.  Sometimes the nature of the patient’s, makes this difficult for The one near my house, allows kids 14-17 to volunteer with a “care pair” adult over the age of 18.  Kids can pair with patients to do art, music therapy, read books in bed, or just deliver and share snacks and make a new friend.

ADULT VOLUNTEERS:

Volunteer opportunities include, but are not limited to admin, concierge, setting up events and even in PR or marketing.  The activities above are also offered including a cuddler opportunity… who wouldn’t want that gig?

 

  1.  Meals on Wheels (http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/take-action/volunteer)

One in six seniors do not know where their next meal will come from.  To solve this problem, Meals on Wheels volunteers assemble healthy, balanced meals to elderly people in need.

YOUNG VOLUNTEERS

While some locations accept help from minors, most opportunities require driving and therefore, are required to be 18 or older.  Our location does allow your children to travel with you and even noted how much the recipients enjoy their company.  She also said teens will receive hours for the ride alongs.

ADULT VOLUNTEERS

Helping is easy and only requires an hour or two of your time.  Just stop by, pick up your delivery and drop it off.  It’s always local so it’s always fast and super easy… so easy you can do it on your lunch break… every day 🙂

  1.  FEED THE POOR:

Unlike Meals on Wheels, food pantries (previously referred to as soup kitchens) mainly cater to the poor and homeless.  There are various food pantries that you will find by googling “food pantires near me.”  The one in my area goes over and beyond your typical “soup kitchen.’’ https://www.rcspinellas.org/volunteer.  In addition to food and clothing services, RCS Pinellas offers homeless shelter in an apartment like setting as well as a haven for domestic abuse victims.  Various volunteer positions are needed to keep places like this running.

YOUNG VOLUNTEERS

  1. Call your local food pantry.  Most accept volunteers as young as 13 to help organize food for distribution but each one is different.
  2. Kids younger than 13 can do various things to help the hungry or promote hunger related issues, have them pack their own balanced, healthy school lunch and then pack one more each day for a needy student at school.  I would call the school to arrange this and leave the lunch in the office with a designated staff member.  There are also letter writing campaigns that can be found in regard to hunger.

ADULT VOLUNTEERS

Like Meals on Wheels the most needed help is loading and delivering food. The time commitment can be as little as 2 hours per week.  You can also help at food drives and fundraising.  Contact one of you local food pantries for more information.

 

This list does not start or end here.  There are so many organizations that need your help.  A local walk to cure cancer or build awareness for a rare disease, are all in need of volunteers.  Students can earn credit by volunteering at these events that usually take place on a Saturday or Sunday.  You can find out about them by keeping in tune with community events in your local paper.  Our local newspaper has an events link listed on their website, but the best way is word of mouth.

Schools can also offer various community service options.  Just call and ask to speak to the NHS advisor or volunteer coordinator.

I hope this list makes getting involved in your community a little easier to navigate.  If you have any questions or additional volunteer suggestions please comment below.

*Photos taken by me from the MG Walk and Special Olympics in Pinellas County.

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The Slowest, Most Painful Way to End the World

The slowest, most painful way to end the world is to deprive people of the things that they love.  In my world, it’s the arts.  Art can come in many forms.  Art is music, literature, dance, and is even found in the human experience.  The beauty and breathe of our world, lies in art and the emotional connection it evokes.  I was lucky enough to have family and teachers who exposed me to art in many forms throughout my life.

My mom and grandmother taught me how to love unconditionally and fight for those who felt unloved.  My dad and grandfather exposed me to the sites of our beautiful nation and taught me to love my country, but it wasn’t until college that I understood why we should love others, and even how to love them.

 

College exposed me to black and white pages that revealed an entire society’s problems and helped me make sense of my own world.  College showed me beautiful works of art that were masterfully made in a way that made me lose myself inside the painting, much like I found myself doing in the lyrics of a song.  

My education in humanities taught me the importance of culture and how our human experiences shape our perception of the world; from Greek history to African American history to stories of our veterans and their personal struggles after war, I discovered that their experiences are woven into my life and color my world.  

Without art, music, literature, and human studies, I would live in a gray world of smog and industry.  If a degree in business, engineering, architecture, etc. focuses on the outside of structures and how they work, the arts focus on the inside.  The arts breathe life into a hollow hole.  As humans, and as an industrial nation, we can’t survive without them.

Our world was not created on the beliefs of industry and if we’re not careful, we can destroy it due to industry.  Just as we balance our personal lives when it comes to work and what we love (family, friends, etc), we must properly balance the love we have for one another and our planet, with the money and resources to protect it.

As more programs that are meant to help people are eliminated, we have more responsibility to one another than ever.  

  • If we can give our soldiers more weapons, we have to keep the programs that help them when they get home.
  • If we build walls out of fear, we have to create art out of love.
  • If we close libraries and cancel learning channels, we need to support more teachers and leaders to share stories that inspire.  
  • If we restrict agencies from protecting our environment we need to ask ourselves why it’s worth saving and start saving it one household at a time.
  • Finally, if we are going to call ourselves a Christian nation, as the new president declared, we have to follow the basic principles of faith; love one another as God has loved us and take care of the less fortunate.  Love and charity are, in fact, the foundation of all of the world’s major religions including Islam and Hinduism.  If we can’t, as a nation, take care of the poor and love more than we discriminate, then we can’t call ourselves a Christian nation.

We will all fall if we place our faith in the hands of fear.  

I’m a proud scholar of the arts, but I also respect the power and industry of our nation. Industry might make us #1 in the world but an athlete can’t compete without her heart.   

There is room in this world (and the budget) for both.  Just as we can make room in our lives for the love of family, and the work we must do to feed them and protect their future, we can find a balance that protects individuals AND our nation’s bottom line.  

If in the end, the value of art, music, literature, and humanities is removed from our nation’s priorities, then it’s up to us to save her heart.  Here are ways we can save the arts:

  • Share stories of artists, authors, musicians, and humanitarians that have made an impact on our world.
  • Share art that replaces dark, violent images with the colors of hope.
  • Share music with messages of love, inspiration, and overcoming challenges.
  • Share pictures of our beautiful land touched only by God.
  • Share the colors of our world and do everything in your power to protect it from becoming extinct.

 

*There are many programs that will be defunded if the new budget is passed.  A little bit of your time can make a big difference in someone else’s life.  If you’d like to get involved in a charitable organization in your area, read  http://expertlyflawed.com/2017/03/5-best-volunteer-organizations/   

 

 

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