BYT is bringing you our first ever volunteering guide — to appease your inner do-gooder, your Catholic guilt, or whatever. So get out there and make your momma proud, or just plant some tomatoes in exchange for free beer. Before we dive into some of the great volunteer opps D.C. has to offer, let's look at things to keep in mind when getting ready to involve yourself in the local D.C. community.
Why should I volunteer?
Do I even need to answer this? Okay, fine. Because you'll meet lots of fun and different folks. Because it gets you off your bum and into the beautifully diverse community you call home.And really, because "House of Cards is back" is not a good enough reason to stay in bed and be a hermit.
I work long hours and have busy weekends…what's the typical time commitment?
It's completely variable depending on who you volunteer with and what you sign up to do. Opportunities can range from one day a year to many hours a week… look for the estimated time commitment by each opportunity below!
I like playing in the dirt… are there opportunities for me?
Yes! So many opportunities to ditch the button downs and roll up your sleeves.
I don't like sunlight… are there opportunities for me?
Definitely! There are a ton of indoor opportunities, from soup kitchens to tutoring to helping pretty much any community organization with vital administrative tasks. Did you know that according to to a 2013 census of volunteers, 30% of D.C.'s residents volunteer and 26% of our millennials do. Not bad when compared nationally, but if you think about it, that's less than one third of us. Given how easy it is to find volunteer opportunities these days and how flexible the hours are, there are few reasons not to get involved.
Okay, I'm fully convinced that helping others beats sitting on my couch. Where are some places I can volunteer?
DC Central Kitchen: DCCK isn't your typical soup kitchen — they not only provide meals to those in need, but also teach culinary job training to individuals who are unemployed, and have a number of programs aimed at providing healthy food and nutrition education to low-income students across the city. You could get involved with DCCK as a chef interested in training, a restaurant looking to hire a DCCK graduate, or as a volunteer helping to prepare food into meals to be donated, to name a few. (time commitment: varies)
826DC: Like kids and want to tap into your creative side? 826DC provides resources to help kids ages 6-18 become better writers and grow more comfortable with the spoken and written word. You can volunteer through tutoring, leading writing workshops, organizing field trips, or just helping 826DC out in other necessary ways (social media, marketing, etc). Don't have time to volunteer but still want to support 826DC? Drop by the Museum of Unnatural History to shop for curious artifacts and gifts — 100% of your purchase will go toward supporting 826DC.
Girls on the Run: Lady friends, this one's for you. If you like spreading the gospel of women's empowerment and believe that warm fuzzies and good coaching pave the road to success, consider coaching with Girls on the Run. There are a zillion chapters in the D.C. area to choose from, and each chapter partners with a local school and practices twice a week throughout the spring and fall. If you can't make a weekly commitment, consider volunteering for the season finale 5K race — loads of glitter, headbands, and squealing girls make it memorable for everyone involved (oh, and femme-friendly dudes, the 5K and assistant coaching positions are open to volunteers of any gender). (time commitment: varies from very light (5K race volunteer) to very involved (coach)
We the People: Ah, finally a political opportunity! If you're super into politics and want to be responsible for molding the next Hillary (or Newt… hey, it happens), consider volunteering with We the People, an organization that teaches students "civic competence and responsibility". (time commitment: varies based on the school you work with and your personal preferences)
Capital Area Food Bank: CAFB has all sorts of volunteer opportunities; from helping out at their warehouse to hoeing in their garden, there are many ways to get dirty and lend a helping hand. Not interested in volunteering but still want to help out? Then check out their Blue Jean Charity Ball… super cas for a cause, because why rent the runway when you can just wear jeans? (time commitment: varies from one-time, monthly, weekly, or more)
Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture: If nutrition and environmentalism are your jam, Arcadia has a ton of ways you can get involved. You'll get to plant and shovel and weed… oh, and meet a few like-minded folks while you're at it. If you have a flexible schedule, you can volunteer with their mobile market, Arcadia's "farmstand-on-wheels" that brings local meat and produce to under-served communities in D.C., or volunteer at farm field trips, teaching students from these communities what it means to eat healthy and local. (time commitment: varies from one-time, monthly, weekly, or more)
Anacostia Riverkeeper: Like (the) Anacostia? Or you've just always wanted to be called "the riverkeeper"? Well, you can don a sick pair of waders and get to work cleaning the river, or help the organization out with administrative tasks inside. Since the folks in this org are literally, the river's keepers, they're also open to any and all reports of river pollution and other hazards — sign up to be a river watchdog and you can help them keep an eye on an important D.C. land(water?)mark. (Commitment: light)
None of these strike your fancy or you're looking for opportunities in a community or subject area we missed? Let us know and we'll be sure to include it in one of the next editions. Up next — D.C. Spring Volunteering Guide!