WEEKEND EDITION

Volunteering. The Gift That Gives Back

| April 13, 2012 4:00 AM

Volunteering may be considered altruistic, but in many cases,  serving others or doing a good deed increases one’s own sense of well-being in return. April 15-20 is National Volunteering Week and there are plenty of ways to get involved in communities, either on your own free time or together in a group.  Search for opportunities in your area on NYC Service, or try VolunteerMatch to customize your preferences and find the right fit. We’ve rounded up a ways to make a donation of your time, talent and skills.  Find out where to walk dogs, serve soup, keep a senior citizen company or give career advice — the possibilities are as open as your interests.

On Your Own

Looking for a friend! Dogs in shelters enjoy a stroll around the block or a stint as a couch surfer at your place. Find your local animal shelter to volunteer. flickr/outlier*

Pet for a day
Pets without homes are like lights without an “on” switch; they need energy to shine. Give animals in shelters the chance to stretch their legs and catch a good whiff of the fresh air by volunteer dog walking at Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition in Williamsburg. Think of it as exercise for you, without the hamster wheel (aka treadmill). If you’ve got some extra love and time and want to “borrow” one for awhile, you can foster dogs or cats with the ASPCA to reduce pets’ time in the shelter. Earn your sainthood by cleaning up kennels at Heavenly Angels Animal Rescue in Queens, or, if allergies keep you away from anything furry, you can make comforts for  four-legged creatures, such as pipecleaner toys for cats or kennel liners. Find instructions at Animal Care & Control of NYC.

Power a writing session with coffee as you list objectives and outcomes. flickr/Katie Krueger.

Fund a nonprofit with your words
Do you have a knack for research or writing? Are there more causes you can support morally than financially? Use your skills to help research and write grants for nonprofit organizations that have a clear vision, if not enough hands on deck. This is an excellent way to develop contacts and explore new fields if you’re between jobs or freelancing. Find organizations who seek your expertise on VolunteerMatch.

A fresh style will lift anyone's day. Volunteer to visit home-bound patients and bring them a new experience as well as great hair do. flickr/suzyq212

Visit the homebound
Volunteer with Visiting Nurse Service of New York and be a bright spot in someone’s day by visiting a hospice patient in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island or Queens. Volunteers are also needed to teach basic computer skills, give haircuts or help with household chores. A twelve-hour required training is offered on weeknights and weekends.

Hello. Néih hóu. Privet!
Do you have a way with words? Help an immigrant increase their English fluency by becoming a conversation partner at the International Center. Maybe you’ll learn a few new phrases for your next vacation abroad? You can also help prepare people for interviews by posing as the employer. Check out the New York Cares searchable database for great ways to help.

Restock books or froth foam for a latte at Housing Works in SoHo. flickr/Chinkerfly

Help fight homelessness with Housing Works
Help Housing Works alleviate the impact of homelessness and HIV/AIDS  by volunteering at one of the 13 thrift shops. These locations directly support the 2,500 homeless, HIV+ Housing Works clients.  If you fondly recall your college barista days, get behind the counter at the Bookstore Cafe, which also has opportunities for bookworms who missed their calling to shelve books.

Volunteering or shopping at the Salvation Army helps support programming and opportunities for disadvantaged or at-risk New Yorkers. flickr/adiything

More than drop-offs at the Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is not just about cute retro sweaters in  thrift stores; it also provides programming for youth and the homeless in New York, and helps find missing persons and provides disaster relief. That means plenty of opportunities for Wednesday afternoon homework help or supervising an outing for the developmentally disabled. Use VolunteerMatch to find an outlet for your volunteerism, from visiting veterans to educational programs.

A VITA-certified tax assistance volunteer deducts and itemizes in New Jersey. flickr/NJLA: New Jersey Library Association

A big return
At Food Bank for New York, IRS Certified VITA/TCE volunteers get an even bigger return by helping file taxes for people in the city, including self-employed taxi drivers and childcare workers. The Food Bank of New York has one of the largest tax preparation services in the country, and completed over 37,000 returns for the city’s working poor last year. Help point eligible New Yorkers to bank account programs which can create greater economic stability for them and their families.

Be a Book Jockey
Got a penchant for the Dewey Decimal System? Help shelve books at one of the  New York Public Library branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. There are also after-school tutoring programs at many locations, and they can always use help teaching people to use the computers.

Team Effort

Even Michael Scott from “The Office” knows there’s no better way to get the gang together than to get them moving, even if he is somewhat misguided at times. Got a group? Get your office mates or extended family to pitch in together for a cause.

Food brings people together

The Food Bank for New York City helps feed and provide basic hygiene products for the city's impoverished. flickr/Quaker Oats Team

Help the Food Bank for New York prepare and distribute hot meals to New Yorkers in need at a Soup or Community Kitchen. This is a great opportunity for group volunteering with members from your office, team or community. Can’t figure out if you needed to add pepper or parsley? Help unload food donations at the warehouse in Hunts Point, the Bronx, then pack up loads for deliveries to the different kitchens. Or, there are plenty of chances to teach youth about eating well with hands-on healthy diet workshops across all five boroughs.

Tending  the great outdoors

City parks are more than excellent spots for Ultimate Frisbee matches.  City of New York Parks & Recreation offers plenty of volunteering opportunities to beautify parks — from planting seeds, trees and flowers, to clean up operations. Bring the gang and f0r team-building outside the office.

Dress suits help women present a good first impression at job interviews. flickr/juggernautco

Stylist with style
Fashion and business advice come together at a Dress for Success event. Distribute professional clothes, along with any interview tips,  to women who are looking to get a well-tailored leg up in the workplace. The next donation day is Saturday, April 21.

Fleet of market
Get the group together to join up with City Harvest. Man the tables at a Mobile Market and distribute fruits and veggies, or  make food deliveries with Street Fleet. There are non-group opportunities in their offices.

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