With the calendar officially turned to 2014, many of us find ourselves with a resolute heart searching for the chance to make a change — and a difference. What better way to impact your local community than to donate your time as a volunteer?
Kansas City is chock-full of worthy opportunities to which you could lend your time and talents. And in the big picture, volunteers really do help make the world go round.
While making a difference in the lives of others is an obvious draw to volunteer work, don’t be surprised when you begin to feel the residual warm fuzzies from your time and efforts. Find your niche and reap the rewards of making a true difference in your community.
Read on for five ways to volunteer in the Kansas City area. From mentoring and tutoring to walking dogs, there’s a volunteer opportunity out there that’s tailor-made for you. And the best part is, it won’t cost you anything but time (and a little piece of your heart).
Extend Your Family
Lend your time and your heart to local youth by volunteering to be a Big Brother or Big Sister. By simply donating a few hours of your time a couple days a month, you can positively impact a child’s life though the simple gift of friendship.
As one of the oldest, largest and most influential youth mentoring organizations in the nation, Big Brothers Big Sisters is constantly seeking willing volunteers to spend time building meaningful, long-term, trusting relationships with youth who, in turn, tap into their hidden potential and benefit immensely both relationally and academically.
Big Brothers Big Sisters helps vulnerable children beat the odds through mentoring — a model that has been proven to improve children’s odds for succeeding in school, behaving nonviolently, avoiding drugs and alcohol and breaking negative cycles.
What’s even cooler than that?
In 2013, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City was awarded the organization’s Agency of the Year award out of nearly 400 local agencies. If you have a little time on your hands, what better way to use it than to build up the next generation of Kansas Citians?
For more information, visit bbbskc.org.
Help Out at a Hospital
From St. Luke’s and KU Med Center to North Kansas City and Overland Park Regional, hospitals all over the city are in need of volunteers for everything from emergency room greeters to gift shop workers. No matter your niche, if you have a friendly smile, a good work ethic and a flu shot, our local hospitals can use you as an integral part of their team.
Additionally, if you are looking for an outreach opportunity for a community group, Children’s Mercy Hospital offers two one-time volunteer entertainment gigs for individuals ages 18 and older. Bring an arts and crafts project or an entertaining act, such as magic or music, to the hospital for a night of fun for the adorable and appreciative audience (a.k.a. patients). These entertainment slots book up fast, so call soon!
For more information, contact your local hospital.
Bond with a Blossoming Bookworm
Share the gift of the written word with those who need it most. There are more than 225,000 adults and teens in Kansas City who read at or below a fourth grade level.
Literacy Kansas City is a non-profit organization that provides one-on-one tutoring to adults in the Kansas City area. Lend your skills to Literacy Kansas City as a tutor and help adults in our community gain skills and confidence needed for the workforce.
If working with adults is a bit out of your comfort zone, consider lending your time to Reach Out & Read, a local organization dedicated to empowering doctors and nurse practitioners to give advice to parents about reading and literacy. The organization, which targets the city’s most vulnerable children, exposes children to literature by providing trained volunteers to read aloud to children in waiting rooms, and to teach parents how to tell stories and engage children in reading.
If you choose to volunteer, you can read books to children in one of the city’s 44 clinic waiting rooms. Bilingual volunteers are in especially high demand.
For more information, visit literacykc.org or reachoutandreadkc.org.
Lend a Leash
We all know that animals occupy a special place in many hearts, so what better way to brighten someone’s day than to volunteer with your pet?
Animals provide a special kind of peace that humans often cannot, and many people who have lost all communication or who are struggling with chronic illness will respond positively to the touch of a dog, especially if they have had to give up their own pets and miss canine interaction.
If you have a furry friend who loves to be loved, why not share him with others? For dogs that are up-to-date with their vaccinations and are well-behaved, there are many opportunities to volunteer locally, including Crossroads Hospice and VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Kansas City’s Paws Pals volunteer program.
For more information, visit crossroadshospice.com or kansascity.vitas.com.
You won’t have to leave the city limits to have a memorable international experience when you host a foreign exchange student in your home. Opening your home to a student who is studying abroad will undoubtedly open your eyes to another culture, which is a valuable education for yourself and your family. And while international travel is, of course, wonderful for broadening cultural horizons, it is not easy on the budget.
For many families, hosting a foreign exchange student is a good option, as children are known to become more globally aware and interested in other cultures, languages and people if their parents host a foreign exchange student. Choose a reputable organization, such as Ayusa, a non-profit organization founded in 1981 which has placed more than 40,000 exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 with American families; or Youth For Understanding.
And forget about the notion that you have to have high school-age students living in your home. Exchange programs are in need of host families, so in most cases, any family with proper living facilities and background screenings will be considered. Spend either a semester or an entire year gaining a global perspective and lifelong memories while helping a foreign exchange student feel at home in the U.S.
For more information, visit ayusa.org or yfu-usa.org.