If you want my advice about the news, it would be this: avoid it, at all costs. Now before anyone is up and arms about the boldness of that statement, hold your horses…I’m joking (mostly). In all honesty, though, today’s news climate is draining to say the least. It’s not a good sign if I don’t feel I can take on the realities of the world we live in without a good buzz going on. With that being said, more and more, I have been seeking out positive ways to impact the community (and no I’m not talking about actively drowning my sorrows in the cheapest Pinot Grigio I can get my hands on). I’m talking about volunteering. There’s nothing like stopping the endless cycle of complaining on social media and going out and making the world a better place with your own two hands – truly, it’s worth your time. For some who have the interest, though, it can be hard to find a place where their time is well spent. Non-profits are notoriously understaffed, meaning that marketing for needed volunteers can often fall by the wayside and needs go unmet (a vicious cycle). Here are a couple of handpicked options where you can do some good around our city:
Miriam’s Kitchen is a force for good in Washington DC, battling one of the evils that we’ve talked about on this blog time and time again: homelessness. The mission is to “end chronic homelessness” through a carefully crafted plan of dignity, belonging, change, and housing. They provide supportive services for the homeless community in DC by connecting the homeless to nutritious meals, making permanent supportive housing available, and more. Miriam’s offers a plethora of volunteer options such as doing prep work or serving a meal, distributing items such as toiletries or clothing, helping the homeless population through services such as haircuts or polishing resumes, or assisting the advocacy group by campaigning for the homeless. Take action here: https://miriamskitchen.org/volunteer/
BEST stands for Building Experiences Skills, and Teamwork. This organization’s focus is on youth that are a part of the foster care system, and their main mission is helping them build better futures. They impact children through pairing them with quality mentors, as described in their own words:
“BEST Kids is the gold standard mentoring organization, providing every child in foster care with at least one stable and long-lasting relationship with a positive adult to support kids’ life challenges, transitions, and to act as a bridge for achieving their dreams.”
Obviously, BEST is always on the look out for folks who are interested in being a mentor and providing a steady, positive relationship to foster children. However, you don’t need to be willing to commit long-term in order to help. The organization is also in need of volunteers to help with administrative tasks, event planning, hosting peer groups, and more. Find out more here: http://www.bestkids.org/volunteer.html
If you’re like me, you might have a special place in your heart for animals…but not a special place in your budget or schedule. The act of adopting a pet is a huge time and money commitment – but what if you could help a puppy-eyed friend in need, if only to be a dog mom or dad for a few weeks? That’s the kind of volunteering you can do at DC Paws Rescue.
DC Paws Rescue is a solo facility, so in order to keep animals under their wing, they rely on volunteers to house the overflow. The more fosters that are willing to help, the more the rescue association is able to help. DC Paws Rescue is always looking for fosters for both dogs and cats, with time frames ranging from a few days to a few months. They provide the basics such as collars, leashes, ID tags, crates, and veterinary services – you’ll just need to provide the home. Get yourself a friend here: https://dcpawsrescue.org/volunteer/fostering/
ArtStream is a theater organization that works closely with people who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through artistic expression, their programs aim to help those individuals gain the confidence and skills they need to engage with the rest of the world in a positive, fulfilling manner. Their vision is “to build a an inclusive world where everyone can perform their art out.”
At the core of what they do, ArtStream offers inclusive drama and social skills classes, puts on theater productions, and work with military hospital programs. Volunteers are called upon to help actors with disabilities onstage and backstage, aid in class, work selling tickets or concessions at shows, or be a part of the behind-the-scenes experience at the ArtStream office. Find more information regarding volunteering here: http://www.art-stream.org/volunteer/
Of course, this is only a small representation of the myriad of opportunities available to the greater DC area. Throughout the district, there is an almost never-ending list of worthy causes to support, charities to help, and people to give a lending hand to – so, what are you waiting for?
If you need some ideas on where to best apply your skills, check out the Greater Washington Catalogue for Philanthropy.