10 Ways to Step Up and Volunteer

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10 Ways to Step Up and Volunteer
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Look around and you'll see communities in need in many ways. More often than not, you want to step up and do what you can to alleviate those needs, if only in some small way. However, you may hesitate because you don't feel like you are qualified to help, you don't have the financial resources to help or you just don't know where to start. Lori Jean Mantooth, director of training programs for Points of Light based in Atlanta, offers 10 ways you can step up and volunteer.

Follow Your Passion
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Follow Your Passion

"Some of the most meaningful service projects are when you volunteer with issues that you're really passionate about," Mantooth said. For example, if you love animals, see what you can do to help out the local animal shelter or rescue operation. Call or check the website to see what supplies are most needed, and then work with family, friends and neighbors to collect and deliver those items, Mantooth said.

Protect the Environment
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Protect the Environment

Doing your part to help the environment couldn't be easier. Start at home by recycling and conserving water and electricity. Then, take it to your neighborhood by gathering some friends to clean up a local park. "Consider planting trees or flowers to help beautify the area," Mantooth said. "Just be sure you get permission before planting anything on public land!"

Become a Regular Visitor
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Become a Regular Visitor

There are so many people living in retirement, assisted living or nursing homes who do not have visitors and would love the opportunity to visit with you. "Set up a visitation program where volunteers of all ages can get to know the residents and help bring some cheer to the facilities," Mantooth said. Play games, sing, host parties, or simply sit and chat, she added.

Put Your Tech Skills to Work
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Put Your Tech Skills to Work

Surpisingly, many people do not realize that using their professional skills is a great -- and much needed -- way to help out. "For example, people with technology skills can help organizations develop their websites, create and maintain their social media presence, and train staff on free online technology solutions," Mantooth said. Think about what you have to offer, and then talk to those community organizations that interest you to see how you can contribute.

Support the Kids
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Support the Kids

If you love helping and working with kids, there are so many ways you can volunteer. "Students of all ages can use an extra academic boost and time with a caring adult," Mantooth said. "Help a first-grader learn to read, teach a sophomore the difference between acute and obtuse triangles, or provide support for extracurricular activities." Check with your local school or community center to see how you can serve.

Aid the Homeless
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Aid the Homeless

Regardless of where you live, there are folks who need a helping hand. To assist them, most communities have shelters or other organizations where you can volunteer. "You can partner with these organizations to collect food or clothing, serve meals, help individuals prepare for the work force, provide child care while parents search for jobs or perform maintenance at the shelter," Mantooth said. For many organizations, time is as much in demand as monetary donations.

Lift Others Up
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Lift Others Up

Many organizations focus on helping people with disabilities experience the great outdoors through sporting activities, Mantooth said. "Explore opportunities such as helping at a therapeutic riding stable, being a sighted 'buddy' for a run/walk for people with visual impairments, or teaching kids with disabilities to surf," she said. Helping others experience something they never thought they would or could is an amazing gift -- for them and for you.

Raise Awareness ... and Money
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Raise Awareness ... and Money

Nonprofit organizations couldn't do what they do without the financial support of the community they serve. "If you have a knack for event planning, sales or networking, lend your skills to help fundraise for your favorite organization," Mantooth said. Join the planning committee for the group's annual fundraiser, solicit donations and sponsorships from local businesses, or organize a monthly car wash. There's no limit to what you can do to help raise money.

Write It Up
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Write It Up

If you are handy with the written word, you are ready to help your favorite organization. "Volunteers with strong writing skills are invaluable for nonprofits," Mantooth said. "You can help write grant proposals, newsletters, marketing materials, copy for the website or the annual report." If you have journalism or public relations experience, you can write press releases or write for the group's blog.

Be Crafty
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Be Crafty

If you love arts and crafts, share your love with those in your community. "Connect with an after-school program, community center or other organization to lead a class on how to make your favorite craft or art project," Mantooth suggests. Other great places to volunteer include children's hospitals, assisted living homes and daycare centers.

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