If you’re checking out this blog, chances are you’re probably an avid volunteer – or at least looking to become one.

There’s surely no shortage of opportunities to do so.  In fact, it’s the overwhelming abundance of people and organizations in need that can make finding the volunteer opportunity that suits you more daunting than it should be.

That’s where VolunteerMatch comes in.

The site, which has been referring volunteers since 1998, matches you with opportunities by your location (city, state or ZIP), and a few keywords of what you’re interested in (i.e., environment, children).

This two-pronged search format can 1) if you know what position you want, eliminate the frustration of not being able to locate one of that type in your area, or 2) if you have a set location you want to work from, expand your potential positions by providing everything available in that area.

And, if you’re unable to volunteer regularly in person, VolunteerMatch’s homepage has a “Virtual Opportunities” section to find something that can be done from home or over the internet.

If you already work for a nonprofit, you can register to use VolunteerMatch as a recruiting tool.

You can also make a monetary donation to keep VolunteerMatch running strong.

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I admit it, I’m a book junkie.

The bookshelves at my apartment are crammed full.  The desk is piled high.  Novels open to various pages are stacked on top of my nightstand.

I can’t imagine not being able to have them.

So, when I stumbled upon this list of nonprofits that provide books to underprivileged populations and areas, I decided to do some investigating.

If you have some extra copies in good condition lying around, consider donating to any one of these initiatives.

1. Name: Books for America
Mission: Promote literacy and “life-long learning” by distributing books and educational materials to organizations.
Serves: People of all ages.  Recipients include adult and youth literacy programs, youth centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, inner-city and rural schools, military bases, assisted living communities for seniors, veterans’ hospitals, women’s shelters, and hospices.
How to help: Donate books, have a book drive, volunteer.

2. Name: Bring Me  a Book
Mission: Provide easy access to new, multicultural, quality hardcover children’s books in multiple languages.
Serves:Underserved preschools, elementary schools, after-school programs, shelters, community centers, and businesses both in the U.S. and in foreign countries.
How to help: Donate.

3. Name: Reach Out and Read
Mission: Promote literacy as a standard part of pediatric primary care; train doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months to 5 years old.
Serves: Clinics throughout the U.S.
How to help: Donate books, make a monetary donation, volunteer.

When I think of the familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, I think tin cans and water bottles…not bicycles.

Luckily, Allison Karow’s thinking isn’t as old-fashioned as mine.

Two and a half years ago, Karow started Bike Saviours out of a Tempe, AZ backyard. The non-profit serves as a(n):

  • bicycle shop that provides low-priced used bicycles and bike parts, as well as affordable repairs
  • “community recycling project” that turns donated bicycle parts into functional bicycles and looks for additional ways to reuse scrapped parts
  • “bike library” for people who need a bicycle only temporarily
  • education center that teaches people about riding safety, Arizona bicycle laws, and bicycle maintenance

Karow had worked at a similar organization in Oakland, and implemented the concept when she moved to Arizona.

 

 

A bike built by Bicycle Saviours, courtesy of the organization.

A bike built by Bicycle Saviours, courtesy of the organization.

 

 

 

I interviewed Heather Hoch, who has been with Bike Saviours since 2007, to see why she’s stuck with the organization thus far and what you can do to help.

Why did you get involved with Bike Saviours?
HH: I became interested in the organization after my friends began teaching me about bicycle mechanics. The bicycle represents a lot of things to me: a sustainable and efficient mode of transportation, a way to stay healthy, and a social experience.

What have you gotten out of your work with the organization?
HH: Bike Saviours is the only place I’ve ever worked where I could directly see the benefits I was bringing to the community. I’ve helped people fix a bike that carried their entire lives, and I did it absolutely free. Money is such a small issue in the shop, so it’s really refreshing to go there at the end of the week and just help out.

Do you accept donations?
HH: We love donations! Anyone with bike parts/tools lying around can drop by the shop on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and donate them. We have an online wishlist detailing specific needs. We also accept cash donations.

What are some other ways to help?
HH: We’re also always looking for more volunteers to work in the shop. The more volunteers we have, the more days we can stay open, and the more people we can help. (Volunteers are required to takea  free 8-week bike mechanics course taught at the shop on Monday nights.)

Anything else readers should know?
HH: We want to save your bike!
Contact Heather or visit the shop on Sundays to find out more.

Courtesy of ASU chapter.

Courtesy of ASU chapter.

In my time at ASU, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several passionate members of the university’s chapter of non-profit organization Camp Kesem.  Students in college chapters of Camp Kesem fundraise throughout the year in order to put on a free, week-long camp in late summer for children personally affected by cancer, such as those whose parents have died of cancer or are currently undergoing treatment.  The camp has the potential to close the gap for children who may feel alone or helpless, as it allows them to make connections with others their age who can truly understand what they’re going through (for many, this will be the first time they’ve met a peer who can empathize with their situation).  On a more superficial but equally important level, it gives children who may have been forced to grow up very fast a week to simply be kids – to have fun and make friends.

Chapter members may later serve as counselors at the camp itself.

 

I interviewed Charlene Fan, a member of the ASU chapter of Camp Kesem, about why this organization matters and, of course, how to get involved.

How do you join a chapter?
CF: It’s easy.  Just speak to a current member, coordinator, or co-chairs Jack (jack.jeng@live.com) and Mark Jeng (mark.jeng@asu.edu).

How does the club work?
CF: For ASU’s chapter, there are bi-weekly meetings.  To be considered a committee member (essentially an “active member”), you must:
1) attend 3 committee meetings per semester
2) attend at least one letter-writing party per semester (where we write letters to potential donors)
3) join and actively participate in a sub-committee (such as Fundraising or Camper Care)

What if you want to take it a step further and be a counselor?
CF: To be a counselor, there is an application and interview process.  You don’t have to be considered a committee member to be accepted as a counselor, but I would strongly recommend it as participating actively throughout the year allows the current coordinators to get to know you and see your dedication in action.

If you don’t have time to be in the club, can you make a donation?  How?
CF: Definitely, donations of any amount are appreciated at any time.  You can send a check to a local chapter or donate online.

Why do you think Camp Kesem is valuable?  Why would you tell someone to do it?
CF: For me, it’s about knowing that you are directly touching the lives of other people.  There are many cancer support groups out there, but Camp Kesem is the only one I am familiar with that specifically targets the needs of the children in these families.  You always know exactly what you’re doing it for, and you frequently get feedback from the families involved.

 

Mailing Address (used for donations)
Arizona State University Camp Kesem
P.O. Box 386
Tempe, AZ 85280-0386

http://www.campkesem.org/
http://www.campkesem.org/site/c.JvI0ImN0JuE/b.2536421/k.9086/Camp_Kesem_at_ASU.htm