Whatever Your Passion, A Volunteer Opportunity Exists

“If you’re new to volunteering, there is no better advice than to start with what you are most passionate about,” says Alisa Kesten, Executive Director of Volunteer New York!

“For some people, their volunteer work is a calling,” says Kesten, “like always knowing that you wanted to work with animals, for example. For others it could be a personal, family, or life event, where you experienced something that triggered a passion for your fight against hunger, or support of breast cancer awareness, or cleaning up our parks and rivers. For others still, it may take trying a few different types of volunteer opportunities before finding what you are truly most passionate about. And that’s fine too; it’s part of the journey!”

Andrea Ziel, Executive Director of WomenOnCall, which matches volunteers with specialized skills with nonprofit organizations with specific needs, advises starting out slowly. “If there’s a cause that interests you, dip your toe in the water by volunteering on one occasion,” she suggests. “Then, you can always find ways to get more involved.”

In fact, WomenOnCall focuses on short-term volunteer opportunities that require 10 hours of service or less so that there is a finite start and end to the project. “We really believe in this model because it gives women, in particular, the opportunity to work with a number of different organizations, learn more about their mission and activities, and explore their own interests,” says Ziel.

To start exploring volunteer opportunities that mesh with your personal interests, Kesten suggests finding a volunteer connector agency close to you by searching several of these databases:

Points of LightVolunteerMatchIdealistMeetupSenior Corps, or RSVP, one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over.

Whether your passion is kids, the arts, animal welfare, the environment, or the elderly–to name but a few–there are organizations, big and small, local or worldwide, that will welcome your enthusiasm and willingness to pitch in. Here are just a few:

Love kids? Consider becoming a Foster Grandparent Volunteer, where you can become a role model, mentor, and friend to children with exceptional needs, or a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children to make sure an abused or underserved child doesn’t get lost in the legal system. Or you could do what 110-year-old (yes, you read that right!) Mazie Ford does; the Florida resident took up crocheting at the age of 100 and makes hats for newborns at her local hospital.

Mom and Dad certainly understand what it’s like to get older and are undoubtedly grateful for all you do for them. Not everybody has family nearby though. Senior Companions are volunteers 55 and older who offer help and friendship to adults who have difficulty with daily living tasks, such as shopping or paying bills, while at the same time giving families and professional caregivers a much-needed break.

For those who are passionate about the arts, consider becoming a docent at a local museum or an usher at a nearby theater. Organizations like Baltimore’s Senior Box Office, for example, have numerous opportunities from marketing and publicity to ushering (complete with complimentary theater tickets).

If you have a cause near and dear to your heart, find the local chapter of the national association and contact them about volunteering. Susan G. Komen , for example, seeks volunteers in its fight against breast cancer, while environmentalists can find their niche at organizations such as The Nature Conservancy.

“Your passions really matter to your community more than you know,” says Kesten. “If you’re giving back for a reason, it will show, and it will make all the difference.”

Read more and get started today: 
The Benefits of Volunteering and How Technology Can Help
A Chance to Make a Difference: Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults

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Tagged with: active aging, arts, volunteering

14 thoughts on “Whatever Your Passion, A Volunteer Opportunity Exists

  1. Lori C
    September 20, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    I’m an older adult, over 80 years old. Note that there are a lot of us who don’t (yet) need any help from volunteers. My new doctor looked at my records and said “three temporary prescriptions? You Aren’t taking any meds?? And yes, I do try to do the three miles a day walk my physical therapist recommended.

  2. Kat
    September 23, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Dick, I see only 2 paragraphs that relate to women in particular, i.e., WomenOnCall, the rest is geared to no gender in particular. I’m sure any organization would love to have you as a volunteer.

  3. Gerald
    October 6, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Each year I attend a Lincheon for volunteers who do work in our county. It is the secret to a long and healthy life. I’m the youngest at 70 and many are well into there 90s. None of us are in wheelchairs or even using walkers. We almost all still drive cars and we go on senior trips. Volunteerism is good for the soul mind and body.

  4. Tom Brenkus
    October 11, 2016 at 5:26 am

    Most people just don’t get it. Guys, mostly. I’ve had conversations with guys about volunteering and the response I get is, ” How much does it pay?” Well. guys, if you need to get paid, now, it it really volunteering?”

    And when I am helping a Vet or other person, they ask me how much I get paid. I usually give the response of, ” Well, I do get a free lunch out of the deal”. They just laugh.

  5. tony
    October 13, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Kudos to all of you that volunteer…..!

  6. Jeanie Pauli
    October 14, 2016 at 4:34 am

    When I retired, I also got divorced during the same time. This was 20 years ago.

    I started my my life over by volunteering. I’ve been on 12 Habitat for humanity trips around the world. Now headed to Africa for my 3rd time to establish tailoring schools. Here at home in the USA I’ve made baby layettes for over 3,000 needy mothers, been a hospice volunteer and judge ice skating tests and competitions.

    Im almost 70 now and feel my life’s true work began when I became a volunteer. People think I’m in my 50’s because I act like it.

    My friends are all over the world, some rich in heart and most the poorest people I’ve ever seen.

    Taking time to look beyond my own personal life drama and becoming focused on the needs of others, has made me blossom into the person I really am.

    May you, during your life journey, find a way to become a volunteer and reap the pure joy of helping others.

  7. Dick
    October 15, 2016 at 6:59 am

    You seem to suggest that women should mostly make up the ranks of volunteers. Why the neglect of men?

  8. Shana
    October 17, 2016 at 5:45 am

    My local food bank has weekly and monthly food distributions. I helped organize the monthly food for local residents. My “job” was limited to what I could do. Many men are volunteers in food distribution. There are various jobs, some requiring some strength, most requiring organization and a cheerful spirit.

  9. PattyP
    November 17, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Agree with Tony (13 Oct). Kudos to everyone who volunteers. I am too young to retire right now, but I am thinking of what I could volunteer for when I do retire. I can only be a couch potato for so long before I start going crazy.

  10. Kenny D.
    November 19, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Volunteering is such a great idea. What I’ve learned through giving council is people who volunteer to help others are happier than those who focus on themselves.

  11. Kay
    December 19, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I have volunteered all of my adult life. I would never have met the people I’ve come to know and love without putting myself out there to help. Starting with after-college volunteering, I went to New York City and got involved in the Nixon-Kennedy elections at headquarters. It’s SO easy, and there’s TONS of ways to help. I continued for the next 40 years to volunteer at various hospitals. I was asked to join numerous women’s organizations and still focused on children and hospitals. Finally, I was the head of a group raising money for the Franciscan Friars in San Francisco, whose main goal is feeding and taking care of the homeless. I’m not Catholic, but I easily could be, after watching the selfless work the Friars do 24/7. Together, in two years, my friends, catholics helping homeless, and various organizations, held two major fundraisers and netted over $1 million. It was as though I got my PhD! During the second year, my husband died in his sleep. I would NEVER have survived without my friends who are mutual volunteers. Sadly, it so disrupted my ability to function logically for about 3 yrs. I’m back on my feet now, looking at the idea of helping at a dog shelter.

    If you take the time to read this, what I’m saying is…GIVE of yourself. HELP others. And, when you do, TOUCH the homeless. Reach out and make them feel that they matter; that they can get out of such a feeling of failure and shame. Did you know there are VIETNAM VETS at Homeless shelters? The same one who saved our lives in that long long war?

  12. D.K.
    January 8, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I been volunteering most of my life. Volunteering has helped with my work life and vice versa. One of the most important facts about volunteering is if you volunteer doing something you like to do . (which is something you should always do). You will find people with likewise interest. this is especially important for people who have jobs with little personal connections.

  13. Ross B
    January 8, 2017 at 3:08 am

    Volunteer at a VA hospital and you will come to realize the cost of our assumed freedoms. I served for 27 years and still feel the need to serve and pay forward for all of the unselfish men and women with whom I served. The VA is a great place to listen to vets; they need to know that we care

  14. D collins
    January 17, 2017 at 3:14 am

    Don’t wait till you retire to volunteer. I had to retire early due to a car accident. My volunteer activities get me sane. Plus, the volunteer work (unlike my previous work) is flexible and can be done around my PT and my bad days. I volunteer with veterans and also do graphic work for dog support groups.

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