Soles for Jeasus

Volunteers make a difference

by BECCI TERRILL

Everyone has the ability to contribute and make their community a better place. By making our communities better, we make ourselves and our world better, too. The best way to do this is to volunteer, which means to help someone without getting paid.

Is there a place for people with intellectual disabilities to volunteer? Yes! There are places that need your help. This article is designed to help you find the right place to volunteer and make a difference in your community.

Before you start volunteering, think about what you like to do.

Do you like to:

  • Work with animals? An animal shelter, veterinarian, pet store, zoo or a farm might be places that could use a volunteer.
  • Work outside? Park and recreation departments, landscape companies, or garden centers might need a volunteer.
  • Work with people? A museum, library, school, senior center, or other places where people go might be good places to volunteer.
  • Are there other things you like to do?

Find the right place

Once you figure out what you like to do, follow these steps to find a place that needs a volunteer:

  • Check online to see if places are asking for volunteers.
  • Call places (like the examples above) to see if they need help.
  • Ask people to see if they know of anyone who can use a volunteer.

When you find a place that needs volunteers, follow these steps:

  • Talk with the person in charge of volunteers.
  • Fill out a volunteer application.
  • Ask questions to find out if this is the right place for you to volunteer.
  • What accommodations do they have for someone with disabilities?
  • What training and support do they have for volunteers?
  • What will your volunteer work be?
  • How often and what time do they need your help?
  • Who should you contact if you can’t volunteer?

Tell them about yourself

If there is something the organization should know about you so they can give you the right job and supports to be a successful volunteer, let them know.

Things like:

  • You do well with routine but have difficulty with change.
  • The kind of environment you need to be successful — quiet vs. noisy, structured vs. unstructured, indoor vs. outdoor.
  • Accommodations you can make to adapt to a situation — you can wear headphones to muffle distracting noises.
  • Longer or shorter time periods for volunteering — which works the best for you?
  • People or tasks — which do you prefer?

If an organization hasn’t had much experience working with volunteers with disabilities, this will help them understand who you are and how you will be a good fit for their organization.

When you find the right place to volunteer, plus the right volunteer job, you’ll want to make a great impression as a volunteer. Here are some things to remember:

  • Treat your volunteer work like a job. Be on time. Be responsible. Be respectful.
  • Dress for the work that you are doing. Here are some examples:
  • DO wear jeans and boots to work outside on the farm.
  • Do wear professional clothes to work in an office.
  • DON’T wear a suit to clean dog kennels.
  • DON’T wear shorts and a T-shirt to a formal party.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Let your supervisor know if you can’t be there or are going to be late.
  • Do your best.
  • Have fun.

Making our communities better

Why is volunteering in your community so important? What’s in it for you? Our communities will be better places for us to live if everyone does their part. Volunteering is a great way to make new friends, learn job skills, and get experience. Volunteering also makes you feel good.

Whatever you do, do something. Make a difference in your community. Volunteer.

Search for volunteer opportunities here:

  • Volunteermatch.org
  • Idealist.org
  • Redcross.org
  • Feedingamerica.org
  • Habitat.org
  • Nationalservice.gov
  • United Way agencies

 

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