Volunteering is a great way to reconnect with your community and get back to one's roots.
The end of the year is a typically lauded season, filled with celebrations of making it through another year in your personal and work or professional life and of more time spent seeing family and friends. It can, however, be an especially difficult one. At a time when many of us are supposed to be feeling connected, many face feelings of disconnect and detachment. When such feelings arise, it's important to intentionally set a slower pace and give thought to the bigger picture. One such way is by giving back to your community.
While donations make an impact, contributing your time is an invaluable resource that should not be overlooked. While the soul of New Orleans and its residents is unlike any other, there is no denying it's a city where many face adversity and there are causes to be served.
Ideas for Volunteering
Volunteering can be as simple as contributing to something larger than yourself and giving back to the community. It offers surprising benefits to yourself, however, and these benefits serve the community in the long run. When you are in a position of positive mentality and wanting to give back, it creates a ripple effect. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic Health System, volunteering provides health benefits such as improving physical and mental health, providing a sense of purpose, teaching valuable skills, and nurturing new and existing relationships. Luckily, there are many places in New Orleans where you can volunteer, no matter your interests or what causes may suit you. You may be surprised at just how you can give back.
When deciding to volunteer, you may not know where to begin because you're unsure of your exact skill sets and interests. Two well-run organizations within the city offer a range of opportunities to narrow down how you can help. They offer a range of options and help to serve as a launch pad if you can't figure out where to begin.
Volunteer Organizations to Consider
The City of New Orleans has been addressing the needs of the community through its Nola Ready Volunteer Corps. They seek to provide assistance before, during, and after emergency situations, as well as hope to "build a culture of preparedness and resilience, supporting first responders, community partners, and residents in disaster response and recovery efforts." They also serve the city through public health, first aid, and special events such as Mardi Gras. Those interested can visit ready.nola.gov/volunteering.
HandsOn New Orleans offers opportunities to volunteer as a group for a variety of social groups or even as an individual. Their role is to help make it easy to volunteer by creating and managing projects. These projects range from school revitalizations to urban gardening. They've simplified the process with an up-to-date website where you can browse opportunities. The proof is in the numbers with over 126,000+ volunteers since 2005. They have a mission statement of creating a more vibrant community through high impact service projects, and you can help today by visiting handsonneworleans.org.
The rise in rent and cost of living has put a strain on many Americans, not excluding New Orleanians. The nonprofit organization UNITY is a collaborative of 63 organizations, which seeks to address this issue with a mission statement of coordinating community partnerships to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness. Volunteers may make use of their time by participating in a range of activities that include, but are not limited to, making bedding, kitchen, and toiletry kits, engaging in fundraising work, identifying and cataloging available housing units, providing job skills training, or organizing a donation drive. To learn more visit, unitygno.org/get-involved/volunteer.
Sustainability and environmental activism doesn't need to be just an individual effort, and neither should it. Green Light New Orleans is on a mission to bring greater sustainability and resiliency to Greater New Orleans homes. The organization does a great deal of outreach, but has three main components of replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient CFL and LED ones, implementing their rain barrel program to reduce the impact of rainwater, and planting backyard vegetable gardens. Applications are required in order to apply but can be filled out at greenlightneworleans.org/volunteerapply.html. More information can be found at greenlightneworleans.org/index.html.
While volunteering is about serving humanity, extending that kindness to animals can also be an important one. Villalobos Rescue Center is unlike your average shelter in that it seeks to give pit bulls, and other types of dogs, another chance in life. The shelter not only provides medical care, such as heartworm medication, but also provides love to animals that may have otherwise faced cruelty. They offer two programs for volunteers—the first option being kennel cleaning that is available seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. or dog walking on Saturdays from 1 to 3 pm. RSVP's are required to volunteer, with one to two days being plenty of notice but no more than seven days. To RSVP for volunteering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit their website at vrcpitbull.com/volunteer-2021.
Volunteering pushes you outside your comfort zone and can allow you to meet people that you typically wouldn't in your everyday life. The end of the year is a great time to give back, and if you are struggling in your own life, it can help you feel connected to your neighbors.