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Think Outside the Box

When most people think “volunteer,” a vision of a hospital, school or shelter may spring to mind. But people need help all over—and sometimes, the type of help they need isn’t immediately apparent. Why not try some of these less-traveled volunteer roads?

You may have unusual skills and experience that are a perfect fit for a niche organization. Maybe you’re not free during normal business hours, or you don’t have a predictable schedule each week. Or maybe you’re just looking for something new and interesting. These ideas can get you thinking outside the traditional volunteer box.

  1. Be the link to vital supplies: Hospitals and healthcare in troubled zones worldwide depend on donations of medical supplies to help and heal. And volunteers are the ones who help pack and sort these vital supplies so they can get to where they’re needed most. MedShare has volunteer supply packing centers in Atlanta and Northern California; or check with your favorite medical charity or a local hospital for a similar program.
  2. Work the race: The athletes get the glory, but participants know it’s the volunteers who do the real leg work. Whether the race involves running, biking or a triathlon, there’s always room for more volunteers. Check the schedule for amateur athletic competitions in your area to find a race supporting your favorite cause.
  3. Get the word out: Education doesn’t just happen in schools. The Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics has an award-winning program called ACE, in which doctors and nurses lead teams of parents and others in presenting seminars to community groups and media about asthma and allergy emergencies. Consider joining or starting a similar educational or outreach group around a chronic health problem you feel strongly about.
  4. Mentor a family: Lots of volunteers do mentoring one-on-one, but how about mentoring a whole family? The thousands of refugee families invited to seek freedom in the United States each year need help with everything from finding familiar foods to learning computer skills to getting the right clothing for work or school. The International Rescue Committee has volunteer centers where you can get started.
  5. Talk on your time: If you want to volunteer, but only have odd hours available, working on hotlines can offer fulfillment that fits your schedule. Plus, programs today wrap in a new technology level: In addition to phone help and counsel, programs offer online chats or a daily check-in texts. To get started, Contact USA provides training and accreditation at various levels so a volunteer can confidently handle the job for local programs.

Or use your creativity to create a product that raises awareness, suits a special diet or solves a problem—and share the results. It worked for Paul Newman! Just don’t forget to log your successes with Create the Good so others can learn from them—it’s all part of sharing your gifts.

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