There are so many worthy causes that it's difficult to decide which to pursue, but I'm going to start off by offering some practical advice because this is a date idea. Consider one-day events that don't require any special skills or training, like beach clean-ups and hiking trail repairs. Not just because they’re uncomplicated, but because you'll enjoy plenty of exercise, fresh air, and end the day on a high note, with a sense of accomplishment. Helping underprivileged children or the elderly is very noble, but these generally require a long-term commitment and, to be honest, may leave you feeling a little down at the end of the day. What's that you say? You're supposed to experience these things in order to grow as a person? That may be true, and I definitely support it for established relationships, but early on there's enough pressure just trying to figure out whether you two get along and want to spend more time together without adding the heavy stuff. You may disagree with this advice and be absolutely right for your relationship, but think it's something to consider.
Here are some volunteering ideas and how to get involved:
Clean-up Trails, Preserves, Beaches, or other Areas
You might not know it but many outdoor recreation spots are maintained by volunteers; groups like the Audubon Society help maintain local preserves, hiking clubs fix trails, and community groups pick up trash at the beach or clean graffiti from urban areas. These groups always need extra hands to help and there aren’t really any skills required, just a desire to make things better. This is also one of those activities where you can go it alone; grab a few trash bags with your date and head out to the beach, park, or any other spot that needs a little freshening up.
Contact: Audubon society, City Parks and Recreation Department, Forest Rangers at a National Park or National Forest, and sites like meetup.com organize local clean-up efforts.
Working with Animals
If you have a soul then you must love animals (this has been proven) and it can be extremely rewarding to help out those in need. This might entail working at a weekend adoption event, playing with the animals at a humane society to help socialize them, travelling to foster homes to take photographs, cleaning cages, washing towels and bedding, bathing the animals, or clerical work. The weekend adoption events, usually held in the parking lot of big stores like Petco or PetSmart, are great opportunities to get your feet wet. You're generally assigned to a dog for the day, or to work in a cat area, and show the pooch off to potential owners, keep them entertained, and do what you can to get them adopted. Socializing the animals at a humane society is another good job, but it's also a popular one and generally requires some advance training and a commitment. You may also decide to volunteer at a pet rescue center or just buy some toys and treats for the animals at the pound to make their day a little better. Always call ahead to see if this is ok, treats may not be allowed. Whatever interests you, every little bit helps.
Contact: Humane Society, private animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, or companies like Petco or PetSmart for adoption group information.
- Sporting or community services. For example, here in San Diego volunteers help kids tour Birch Aquarium and then go snorkeling with them afterward for safety and to explain interesting ocean features. Charity runs, biking, hiking, or swimming event always need volunteers to setup the course, provide directions, signups, helping participants, etc.
- Local theater companies use volunteers to help with the box office or as ushers. The work is easy and once the play starts you generally get to see a free show.
- Blood donation centers and bloodmobiles need people to greet donors, help them fill out forms, and distribute orange juice and cookies afterwards. You can even donate blood yourselves at the end of the day.
- Museums, art galleries, monuments, and botanical gardens have regular volunteer opportunities.
- Help the less fortunate with shelter by spending a day constructing or fixing up homes with Habitat for Humanity.
- Soup kitchens and churches would appreciate your help preparing food, serving, and cleaning up after meals.
- Food banks and their outlets need people to help stock, organize, and bag groceries.
If you have any other great volunteer ideas, feel free to add them in the suggestions section below.
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