When it comes to finding the right volunteer opportunity for you, the answer may be in your own backyard. The community where you live or work may have various needs that align with your volunteering interests. When that happens, you have a special opportunity to make a difference that matters to the people around you.
The first step to volunteering in your own community is to find areas of need. These may be apparent, such as when the homeless or food insecure population is growing. (A good indicator here is whether the number of children who receive free or reduced-price lunches in the school system is growing.) Natural disasters or local emergencies such as house fires may also create opportunities. You may see stories in the local newspaper or on social media about the need for volunteers. Or you may simply see an opportunity to make things better, such as through advocacy or improvements. Here are some ways you can give back right in your own backyard.
Sometimes, the communities greatest need is behind the doors of its homes. Especially during the pandemic, families might be suffering from food insecurity, inability to access public benefits, or other challenges. You can help by adopting a family or helping people navigate the system. Or even performing simple acts of kindness can make your community better. Find opportunities to help families by contacting local nonprofits that help with housing, food, mental and physical health services, and other areas of interest to you.
The pandemic has exacerbated loneliness and isolation, especially for older people. You can make a difference by volunteering to help them find social connection, organizing online activities, or simply checking in. Connect mature neighbors with AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect, which is working to end social isolation and help older adults build the social connections they need to thrive. The platform offers a collection of tools and resources that can help your neighbors stay connected whenever they need support.
Could your community use a new park? How about a community garden? There are many ways you can make your community more livable, safe, and enjoyable to the people around you. This one-page handout from the AARP Livable Communities initiative explains the features that help make a community livable. Use tools like the AARP Livability Index to assess some of your community’s strengths and areas for improvement.
There are many ways to get involved in your community to make things better. By simply looking around and noticing where the need is—and where you feel inspired to help—can give you ideas that will allow you to volunteer while improving the lives of those around you.