Earth Day and Arbor Day are both coming up, and their occurrence every April tends to spark an increase in messages about environmental activism. But did you know that the entire month of April is National Volunteer Month? At LifeWorking, we’re all about supporting our communities; we encourage you to spend some time volunteering locally this April and beyond. We’ve compiled some resources and ideas to help get you started with giving back.
Finding Volunteer Opportunities
When it comes to choosing which organization to volunteer with, there are so many choices that it can become understandably overwhelming. Luckily, there are resources online designed to help you find the perfect fit. A popular website is VolunteerMatch, which allows you to search by location, cause (like animals, environment, homelessness, etc.), your personal skills, and even virtual vs in-person opportunities.
Your town’s government or chamber of commerce website will likely have a list of local organizations that accept volunteers. Also keep an eye out for any volunteer fairs taking place in the area. For students of all ages, you can join a volunteer group through your school that will take care of all the organizational details and leave you with more time for service.
There are many large organizations that have a presence across the country. These include:
Ronald McDonald House Charities – Provides housing, support, and resources for families with children receiving medical care away from home.
AmeriCorps – Connects people with volunteer opportunities across America.
American Red Cross – Runs blood drives and provides disaster relief in times of crisis.
Habitat for Humanity – Builds housing that is safe and affordable.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America – Mentors children to help them reach their full potential.
Best Buddies International – Builds friendships, secures jobs, and empowers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Volunteer Your Time as a Mentor
The thought of volunteering may bring to mind images of manual tasks, like cleaning up trash and painting fences. Some service opportunities do involve this type of physical labor, but they’re far from the only option. If volunteering your time by teaching others is more your style, consider becoming a mentor.
There are many people, from students to seasoned professionals, who could benefit from the specific knowledge you have to share. If your personal experience is in starting or running a small business, and you’re local to the Lake County area, check out our Community Innovation Collaborative in Lake Forest. As part of LifeWorking, the CIC Business Incubator connects local entrepreneurs with mentors to foster an environment of opportunities and ideas.
Some of the businesses that are part of the CIC are already established and seeking advice on how to improve and grow. Others are still in the early stages and need workspace, financial assistance, and tailored support in order to actualize their business idea. Diversity is vital to our creative community—no matter what industry you’re an expert in, we welcome your help. You can apply to become a mentor by clicking here.
Volunteering in Lake Forest
For those in the Lake Forest area looking for a more hands-on service opportunity, the following organizations all accept volunteers:
Fill a Heart 4 Kids – Assembles care packages and Survival BacPacsTM for homeless youth and foster children. (This is a wonderful opportunity if you don’t have much time. Volunteer time slots are only 40 minutes long, and they are located right around the block from the LifeWorking office!)
Elawa Farm – A historical and sustainable farm that builds community through food, agriculture, and a weekly market.
Family Service of Lake County – Provides counseling, education, tutoring, and mentoring to families in Lake Forest.
Lake Forest Open Lands Association – Restores local ecology by removing invasive species of plants.
Reading Power – Provides one-to-one literacy tutoring to students in underserved schools.
Chocolate Chips Association – Runs S.T.E2.A.M. programs that educate and inspire young girls. You can learn more about the Chocolate Chips Association by checking out our spotlight on their CEO and Executive Director, Karen Jones. To volunteer, email [email protected]
Starting Your Own Service Organization
Have an idea for a service group that doesn’t exist yet? Starting one yourself might be easier than you realize. Creating an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization can be complicated, but it isn’t necessary to mobilize volunteering efforts. All you need is a group of people with a shared goal and a plan for making a difference!
Here are some things to consider when getting started:
Decide on your goal/mission
- Choosing something you genuinely care about will help you stay passionate and inspire others.
- Are there any restrictions that might hinder your goal? For example, if you want to lead an ecological initiative to plant wildflowers to increase the native bee population, are there certain areas where you can and cannot plant?
Make sure it’s set up following proper legal guidelines
- If your efforts involve selling anything, or you’re looking to win grant money to fund your project, you will need to follow the proper steps to register your organization with your local government.
How will you recruit members?
- Utilize your personal network by posting on work chat boards and local social media groups. You can also create a simple website to give your organization more of an online presence. Make sure to get the email addresses of potential new members so you can send out updates and event reminders!
Many companies encourage their employees to get involved with local organizations. If your employer doesn’t have an organized volunteer group, reach out to the HR department or leadership team and they can help you set one up and spread the word to other employees. The more the merrier!
If you’re part of a company’s team tasked with setting up a corporate volunteering initiative, reach out to your coworkers to see if anyone has a particular organization that is meaningful to them. Having someone advocate for that cause will help motivate other employees to volunteer, too.
If your company has a business partner, client, or vendor that you could volunteer for, it could help strengthen your relationship and add meaning to the reason you chose that organization. For example, if you work for a company that publishes children’s books, you could design a program where employees read to students at local elementary schools.
Make Earth Day, Every Day
If you aren’t able to set aside dedicated time to volunteer, that’s okay. Especially when it comes to protecting the environment, taking one small action every day can add up to a lot of good. Some simple goals can be:
- Pick up one piece of litter a day
- Refill every disposable water bottle at least once before recycling it
- Bring your own bag with you when you go grocery shopping
- Cut down your shower time by one minute (it adds ups!)
- You can explore over a hundred more ideas here
This Earth Day, whether you engage in a large volunteering effort or take a small step toward a more sustainable lifestyle, share a photo on social media and make sure to tag @mylifeworking so we can all celebrate your success!