Many people want to volunteer and give back to their community, but that enthusiasm wanes under the weight of myths about volunteering. You don’t need a lot of people, time or money to make a difference, but you may think that way if you have barely any time to feed yourself on a busy day.
Hold on, because you can volunteer this summer, even if you’re cash-strapped, time-strapped and unsure of what you have to offer. Paying it forward can be simple, fun and use skills you already possess.
Love the Animals at the Shelter
Volunteer at your local animal shelter to make new animal friends. Your volunteer time may be as simple as taking dogs for a walk one afternoon after church on a Sunday, or popping by to stuff envelopes. Animals give unconditional love to humans, and it’s wonderful to give back as they wait to be adopted into their next home.
Volunteer From Home
Are you a graphic designer, writer or social media expert? Are you an email or tech whiz kid? Do you own the phone tree?
Use your existing skill set to volunteer from home. Design an amazing ad for the food bank, or contact vendors on behalf of a nonprofit from your phone at home.
Host a Closet Benefit
Collect hot looks from friends and family, and host a wine-and-cheese shopping shindig. Invite ladies over privately or at a location you rent, and donate the proceeds to a charity.
This opportunity lets you come together with friends, and you’re in charge of what time you put into this, making it more flexible for your schedule.
Beautify a Local Business
Do you have art skills? Put them to use.
Connect with the owner of a building to beautify a spot in town and leave your mark. You can make it a community project by recruiting other artists to pitch in, and some area arts organizations offer to fund such beautification projects.
Start a Community Garden
Do you love to dig your toes and fingers into the dirt, planting flowers and herbs? Get involved with your local community garden, or start your own community garden.
Gather interested folks to plan what you’ll plant and scout sites, which you’ll likely need to get approved by the city, unless it’s on private property. Many cities have community gardens — so there shouldn’t be excessive red tape, only green thumbs.
Help out on Set
While sewing and handyman skills are highly useful in theater, you don’t need specialized skills to volunteer for a production. Help set up and break down parts of a set during a scene change. Run errands, or hand the actors needed items as they enter and exit various scenes.
Productions are constantly shifting as they come and go, and your total volunteer time doesn’t have to last more than a few days or weeks. Contact your local theater company for more information.
Sometimes, a theater company only needs help acquiring certain types of material to help make the sets look more authentic. Your volunteer efforts could come in the form of a donation of a particular type of clothes or shoes.
Help out After-School Programs
Some schools need volunteers for their after-school programs, particularly those that offer summer programs. Help with art, math or reading skills. You’ll need to contact area schools to learn more.
Feed the Force
Got mad baking skills? Make croissants, breakfast muffins and other pastries to drop off at your local police station and fire station. Feed the force that serves the community.
Call ahead to see what items they like and schedule a time to drop the goodies by.
Spend Time With Seniors
Your elders are a wealth of advice and life experience. It’s time to give back.
Contact area senior communities to ask about volunteer programs or to share a skill as guest teacher. Perhaps you could teach a group of seniors how to salsa dance or paint. It’s a great way to make new friends and have interesting conversations.
After the recession, many people have faced difficulties with finding a job or the right fit for their career. If you have a way with words and a sharp editing eye, help the larger community by editing their resumes.
You could start with friends and family, and post in neighborhood social media groups to advertise your free services. Don’t burn out: Schedule a manageable amount of people. Pay it forward by helping your neighbors land secure jobs.
Hand out Water
Spend an hour out in the heat in the park, and hand out water to homeless individuals and people who are starting to look overheated. Nourish strangers on a hot summer day.
Donate to the Food Pantry
The food pantry is where many go for groceries once or twice a month when times are hard, and they face no judgment. Volunteer your time to help check people in, or round up canned and boxed items to deliver to a local food pantry. Second Harvest and churches typically spearhead food bank operations, and a quick online search will locate a food pantry in your area.
Start a Butterfly and Bee Garden
If you’ve been wanting to start a garden and don’t have much time to volunteer beyond the confines of your home, this is the perfect thing to nurture your soul and the environment. Start a butterfly and bee garden to give back to nature’s beneficial pollinators, who love plants like milkweed, butterfly bushes, dill and fennel.
Go a step further and provide a nesting area, such as a dead tree or hedgerow. Butterflies like muddy puddles for the salt and water provided there.
You could also become a beekeeper. Research local requirements first.
There are many ways to volunteer this summer, even if you are short on time, money and resources. Put your skills as a graphic designer or artist to work, designing flyers or painting murals. Edit a resume for your neighbor, or play with cats and dogs at a shelter. Gather up clothes and food to donate, or create a community or butterfly and bee garden.
There are many summer volunteer options to choose from, from your backyard to the community at large at a nonprofit-organized fundraising event. Don’t let volunteering myths stop you from paying it forward, and give back from the heart this summer. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to kindness.