Volunteering in your community is an opportunity, not a sentence—and it definitely looks good on college and job applications! Beyond that, it is a chance to share what you have—time, skills, interest, compassion—with groups or individuals who will be instrumental in helping you develop insight into your own strengths and future plans, acquire new skills and make rewarding connections.
You can try some of these ideas on your own, or grab some friends for a group effort. From helping out a neighbor to Key Club, the oldest and largest service program for high school students, your volunteer opportunities are limited only by your imagination!
If you’re not sure where to start, you might begin by expanding on routine things you are doing now.
1. Shop: Whether you are helping out a homebound neighbor, adopting a family during the holidays or packing a shoebox through Operation Christmas Child, strolling store aisles can definitely count as service. If you’re a bargain shopper or coupon clipper all the better: Collect extras and make hygiene kits for teens in homeless shelters or donate other goods.
2. Recycle clothing—and stuff: You have to clean out your closet anyway. Find a nearby organization that can use what you no longer need or want.
3. Shepherd the younger set: If you have a sibling you have to watch anyway, see if your local park or community center has activities that could use your help, such as camps and carnivals.
Dig a little deeper for these opportunities that require a longer one-time investment of time and energy, or a weekly or monthly commitment.
4. Read: Libraries, schools and crisis nurseries would love to have someone come and read to groups or individual children. Nursing homes and centers for the blind or visually impaired are also great places to find eager listeners. Audio books are great, but nothing can replace the camaraderie and companionship of sharing a good story.
5. Write: Draft letters to deployed service members, veterans and wounded soldiers, or a letter to the editor of your local newspaper on issue important to you. Write to elected officials on the issues that require their action. (Bonus points for organizing a letter-writing, email, or social media campaign!) Information on military mailings can be found at http://www.operationgratitude.com/ and http://www.give2thetroops.org/
6. Make something: Whether you’re handy or crafty, many organizations can use your creation, from bird feeders and bookshelves to baby blankets and hats.
7. Let it grow: If you have a green thumb, plant something extra that you can give away, whether flowers or produce, it will brighten someone’s day. You also can offer to supervise a community garden.
8. Share a skill: That could mean sharing your shooting skills on the basketball court or teaching a senior citizen group how to manage Facebook and Twitter.
9. Get physical: High-energy outdoor projects are great to work on with a group, adding fun and socializing to service. From fundraising runs to home-building projects like Habitat for Humanity or staffing a chore crew, these are a great time to appreciate the youth, health and abilities you possess that many of those served don’t!
Ready to take a deeper plunge? The following require more time and commitment but are sure to pay off in planning and time-management skills, and serious personal satisfaction.
10. Plan and execute an event: A community cleanup, clothing or food drive, or fundraising event requires organization, planning and plenty of willing helpers. So tap your classmates, friends and family to help, and learn a lot about yourself and your skill sets in the process.
11. Start a club or get involved with an existing service organization: From Key Club to Interact Club to Youth Volunteer Corps, there are many organizations you can join or advocate for a chapter. But it doesn’t have to be just about service; starting a club of any kind can be an act of service. So maybe you start that bike club or an anime club—or anything else that brings people together.
12. Found your own nonprofit: Many teens and those even younger have done it, so don’t write it off as wishful thinking. When you have chosen your cause, do your research and line up your resources. One place to start is https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/how-start-nonprofit
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