Happy National Volunteer Month! The month of April is devoted to honoring all current volunteers, and encouraging others to join the efforts. Ever want to volunteer and give back to the community but don’t know where to start? Look no further, Step Out Buffalo is here to help – Buffalo isn’t called the City of Good Neighbors for nothing! There are tons of organizations around the Buffalo area that could use your help. Not enough time on your hands for volunteering? Also not a problem. Many of these organizations only ask for an hour a week of your time, if that.
Volunteering is a great way to circle back to your passions that you had growing up and channeling what you’re really interested in to help others. Volunteers are the real superheroes, and even an hour a week can make a big impact in someone’s life. Whether you’re interested in mentoring, athletics, working with children, helping veterans, etc. there is an organization out there for you! And remember, as anonymous stated, “A simple act of kindness can make a tremendous impact on a person’s life.” Here are 10 awesome orgs to step out and volunteer your time to this month and beyond!
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters gives volunteers the chance to mentor youth one-on-one. Volunteers are partnered with youth and help spread positivity and motivation to reach their future goals. There are various phases of mentoring within this program, and with community-based mentoring, volunteers take the youth to do fun things that the children enjoy, such as attending sporting events, going out to eat, playing mini golf, etc., and of course the youth are excited to hang out with their big brother or big sister whenever they get the chance. This is a great way to have one-on-one chats where volunteers can really get to the core of who the child is and what they want to do in the future while having fun with it. It’s a great opportunity for both parties, because, heck, I’m two years out of my master’s program, with a full-time job, and I still have a mentor.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of WNY
The mission of Make-A-Wish is to “grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” When families are facing hardships due to medical conditions their children are faced with, volunteers (thats you!) step in to give a breath of fresh air and bring a spark of joy to the wish children. Youth with life threatening medical conditions who are referred to the organization are entitled to a wish of their choosing. Wish-granting volunteers meet with wish children and families and talk discuss their dream wish. The wish granters, or in some cases, “wish fairies,” are the ones to deliver the happy news when the wish is granted. Amidst hospital visits and medical treatments Make-A-Wish volunteers help children feel a return to normalcy, giving them hope to keep fighting their battles. If wish-granting isn’t for you, there are plenty of events and fundraisers to help out with too! Bringing a smile to a child’s face is one of the coolest things you can do.
SABAH and Danceability are organizations for those who want to help out with causes on the slightly more athletic side. These are organizations that help the special needs community – SABAH is an ice skating program, while Danceability is a dance class program. Within both organizations, volunteers give one-on-one attention to skaters and dancers during weekly classes. Volunteers have the pleasure of seeing fantastic growth and confidence build up over months of working with their partners, while helping them master routines for annual shows. It’s hard to tell who is enjoying themselves more, which is a wonderful thing.
For all the animal lovers out there the SPCA or any of these shelters are the place for you! Whether you’re a foster care or Paws for Love volunteer, your love for animals can bring happiness to yourself and others. In the Paws for Love program, pet owners bring their dogs, cats, rabbits, etc. to area nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even colleges, to provide a stress-free source of comfort to those who need it most. You’re literally melting away the anxieties of life with one cute little fur ball. What could be better? Check out adoptapet.com to find a whole list of shelters that need your help!
Tifft Nature Preserve
Conserving the natural habitat we live in is another awesome way to volunteer your time. Tifft Nature Preserve became an important landmark in WNY in the 1970s, when a part of a wasteland was transformed into a flourishing land of ponds, trees, animals, and a place for visitors to explore and enjoy. With the continuous sustainability initiatives and planned growth, there are plenty of experiences for volunteers to take part in. Whether one volunteers at fundraisers, helps with office work, or assists with exhibits, trail work, and outdoor preserve projects, there’s always an opportunity to be involved with the direct growth of the preserve.
Volunteering at a hospital
While people are experiencing tough times and medical treatments it’s always helpful to have a positive influence around. Organizations like Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and many others offer volunteer programs that will put you directly involved with patients. Visiting with patients, assisting nurses, helping with office work, helping with patient registration, and just providing a happy face for patients is a way to bring about hope when times are tough.
Habitat for Humanity
Providing people with shelter and protection from the elements is an important part of the society we live in today. Habitat for Humanity does just that. Volunteers help construct homes for low-income families, rebuild existing homes donated to Habitat, and build brand new homes. If construction isn’t for you, you can still become a part of a committee and help with promotion, support families that are part of the program, review the applicants, aid in and program development. Either way you’ll be making a huge impact in the community.
Volunteer at an art gallery
The Buffalo area has no shortage of culture, beauty, and art to become immersed in. The Burchfield Penney Art Center and Albright-Knox Art Gallery are full of opportunities for volunteers – greeting museum attendees, assisting with events, helping out at the museum store, being a curator, or helping with educational programs included.
WNY Heroes, Inc.
There are many organizations in WNY working with veterans and families of those veterans adapting to civilian life after combat. WNY Heroes, Inc. helps veterans find jobs, gives financial assistance to disabled veterans and veterans in need, and has an “adopt a veteran family” program to help ease the financial burden around the holidays. The organization also has a camp program for children who lost a parent in recent wars. As a volunteer for the organization, you’re able to help with many of these aspects including fundraising.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a multi-faceted organization that helps many groups of people with adult rehabilitation, employment services programs, senior services, providing summer camps for youth, emergency disaster services, and many more. Since there are so many different programs, there are even more ways to get involved. Volunteers can help with anything from photography for events, music lessons for children, mentors, fundraising assistants, and bell ringers raising money for the organization. The list for who the organization helps and the volunteer opportunities is seriously large and impactful.
Of course, the above organizations listed only cover a very small scope of opportunities and there are so many more ways to get involved! Fire up the Google machine, type in your interests, and see what you come up with. Happy volunteering!