‘Tis the season for giving but your generosity need not only be seasonal or monetary. While it can feel good and timely and necessary to donate around the holidays (and it is), that’s not the only time of the year when our charities and the people they serve need help. Committing to a recurring longterm volunteer role can be just as valuable.
And while monetary donations are extremely vital to the daily operation of any nonprofit, not everyone is in a financial position to give in that way. Luckily, there are lots of other ways to give of your time and energy instead. Here are 10 year-round opportunities that allow you to give back to Charlotte without opening your wallet.
Show the world what Charlotte is all about by hosting an international visitor overnight or just for dinner. The International House partners with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to implement government-sponsored programs that enable global leaders to experience American democracy, civil society and culture. Check out the Citizen Diplomacy page to see who visited when this year (technology leaders from Latin America are here now through 11/14) and fill out the interest form if you’d like to be a host next year.
Host a workshop for children and youth in crisis. The Relatives provides shelter and support for children who are homeless, have run away from home or just need help during a tough family situation. Volunteers can bring their unique skills to the residence by organizing a workshop on the topic of their choosing. It could be a game, hands-on craft, cooking class or demonstration. Call 704-377-0602 to present your idea to program staff.
Help elementary schoolchildren with their homework right where they live. The Learning Help Centers of Charlotte offer educational programs to residents and employees in low-income apartment complexes. Kids in kindergarten through 8th grade can receive help on their homework after school. You can volunteer as a weekly after school tutor at their education centers at Sun Valley Apartments, Casa Bella Apartments or Silverstone apartments. Fill out the application here.
Spend lunch or dinner with a child and make a new friend. Alexander Youth Network provides professional treatment for children with serious emotional and behavioral issues. Lunch and dinner buddies volunteer to spend mealtime with one child once a week for a minimum of 6 months. Visits take place on-campus at their psychiatric residential treatment center.
Provide support over the phone as a rape crisis companion. Safe Alliance provides hope and healing for people in crises related to sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. Rape crisis companions staff the 24-hour Rape Crisis hotline to provide crisis intervention, support, advocacy and information to clients over the phone and at local hospitals. Volunteers must complete 30 hours of training and commit to one year of service.
Volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister. BBBS of Greater Charlotte creates mentorship matches between adults (“Bigs”) and kids ages 6 to 18 (“Littles”) to nurture children and ultimately strengthen communities. Volunteers commit to spend just a few hours a month with their Littles. 83% of Littles say their Bigs instilled values and principles that have guided their lives.
Drive seniors to their medical appointments. Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte helps seniors live independently in their own homes as long as possible by coordinating volunteers to help with daily tasks. Transportation volunteers provide availability and are then matched with seniors who need rides to the doctor, grocery store or other places around town.
Help build a house. Habitat for Humanity Charlotte has provided housing for 1,450 families since its inception in 1983. Volunteers get their hands dirty by literally building the homes the families will live in. No prior construction experience is required, and all tools and safety gear will be provided. See the updated list of individual volunteer opportunities and register here. Hands-on home construction not your thing? Get your daily caffeine fix at Julia’s Cafe and Books. Every purchase supports Habitat Charlotte.
Sort donations at the food bank. Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina strives to eliminate hunger through the solicitation and distribution of food to charitable organizations that assist people in need. Volunteers assist in sorting donated items in the warehouse. They ask that you schedule in advance and commit to a minimum 2-hour shift. Volunteer shifts are available Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays 6 p.m. – 9.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. One hour of your time equates to $21.79 in labor savings for the organization.
Foster a shelter pet. Love animals but can’t commit to a lifetime of care? Or already have a pet of your own but still have plenty of love to give? You can help save shelter pets from euthanasia by volunteering as a temporary foster. Unfortunately, animals shelters have limited space and this mean the animals in them have limited time to be adopted before they are euthanized. A number of rescue organizations in the area pull overdue animals off the kill list in shelters and enter them into a network of fosters before adopting them out to a permanent home. It frees up kennel space in the shelters to house more animals and saves a life. Check out Greater Charlotte SPCA, Dog Days of Charlotte, South of the Bully Rescue, Hope for All Dogs, Carolina Paws, Project HALO and Halfway There Rescue (disclosure: my sister-in-law runs this one and I adopted my puppy here).
You can find opportunities like these and more at Share Charlotte, Hands on Charlotte and the Volunteer Center at United Way of Central Carolinas.