National Volunteer month in the United States takes place in the month of April. This month is dedicated to honoring all of the volunteers in our communities as well as encouraging volunteerism throughout the month. April became National Volunteer Month as part of President George H. W. Bush’s 1000 Points of Light campaign in 1991.
In the United States, volunteerism is instilled at a young age. In many parts of the country, it is the cornerstone of summer vacation or woven into after school programs. Most organizations in small towns, rural counties and the largest cities would not function without volunteers. In some families, the baton of volunteerism is handed down generation after generation.
Rural fire and ambulance departments remain staffed due to the efforts of volunteers. The underprivileged receive much needed medical care thanks to volunteers. Long overdue repairs and upgrades are made to a senior women’s home thanks to an organization’s annual call for donations and skilled workers. A woman answers a call on a suicide hotline because she cared enough to give up a few hours to train and listen to someone desperate and alone. A team sets up tables at a soup kitchen every week. Another group delivers meals to men and women who can no longer cook for themselves. Boys and girls sell ice cream sandwiches during a fair to raise money for a homeless shelter.
Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. They pick a cause and make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes the difference a drop in the bucket. Other times it creates a tidal wave of change. From the anonymous volunteers who donate their resources to those whose efforts are part of larger national organizations like 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts of America, or American Red Cross or a local grassroots group, their missions provide valuable support to communities in times of need.
How to observe National Volunteer Month
Thank a volunteer. Volunteer! Many volunteers will tell you it is a rewarding experience. You don’t have to have a ton of time. Do you have a special talent or skill that may benefit a charity or organization? Offer your services or ask how you can be of help. Use #NationalVolunteerMonth to share on social media.
Ideas for Volunteering
1. Recruit the kids or grandkids
Teach the value of volunteering to youngsters—or simply make your volunteer project a fun family affair—by enlisting children, grandchildren and other kids in the community.
- No one knows school supplies better than kids! So encourage the ones you know to help children in need with a school supply drive. You can gather them together to lend a hand at a drive nearby, or hold your ownat a local school, library or community center.
- Select a child-accessible service project, like organizing canned goods for a local food bank or gathering old toys and clothes to donate to a shelter.
- Get kids and their friends outdoors for a cleanup around their school grounds and encourage them to take the lead in spreading the word around town.
- Take a child to visit a community nursing home. Kids can share stories with residents, and seniors love to see young, energetic faces. Don’t forget to take along crafts and games to keep everyone entertained.
- Inspire kids to help in their own ways. Tell them about your own volunteering experiences—or find a local celebrity, athlete or even family member known for doing good to share their stories.
2. Help seniors in your community
Not all of us are lucky enough to have a house full of family or the health to get out of the house and socialize. Reach out and show an elderly or lonely neighbor they aren’t alone.
- Show a neighbor you care by offering to shovel the driveway or rake leaves—or surprise them by doing so without asking.
- Share a meal. Create an extra portion at dinner or buy some additional groceries during your next trip to share.
- Consider yourself a handyman or woman? Fix a leaky faucet, move a piece of furniture or even repaint a room.
- Spending quality time is the best gift of all. Bring over a game of checkers to play, a classic movie to watch or old tunes to enjoy.
- Invite others to join you in a service project in your shared community. Plant flowers with green-thumbed friends and neighbors, create or join a community garden or organize a trash pick-up.
3. Do good from home
It’s easy to make a difference from the comfort of your own home.
- Get crafty in your living room—make visitor kits for senior center residents or holiday-inspired home decor for neighbors.
- Turn on the stove and make some goodies for a senior or family in your area—but be sure to check on any dietary restrictions first!
- Check in with seniors living alone to see if they need a hand with anything. A friendly phone call can go a long way.
- Organize a volunteer group to carry out a project using our guides and other ideas to get started planning—all from your home computer.
- Make an online donation to a favorite cause or save bottle caps, labels or coupons for a local charity.
4. Spend time with furry friends
Pets without homes need attention and care – especially during the colder months. Donate your time and love to abandoned or abused animals.
- Find your nearest animal shelter and volunteer to walk dogs or play with the cats.
- If you just can’t resist taking one home, why not try fostering an animal in need?
- When it comes time for your foster pet to move to a good permanent home, send them on their way with an adoption kit stocked with food, a collar, a favorite toy and special treats!
- Walk an elderly neighbor’s dog. For neighbors going on a trip, offer to check in and feed their pets—or give the animals a temporary home in yours.
- Invite kids or grandparents along to walk pets at the shelter—the more the merrier!
5. Give to veterans and military families
It’s not easy being left behind while a loved one is off serving our country. You can help military families deal with the hardships they face each day, whether it’s getting settled in a new town or finding extra rides or childcare for young ones.
- For a family that lives close by, cook a meal once a week. Whip up some extra snacks over the weekend. Or gather up the neighbors so you can each take a day of the week to cook.
- Do something extra – an errand, a run to the store for school supplies or a day shuttling kids to and from school and activities.
- Take an afternoon to give a new family a tour of town and the inside scoop on places to dine, shop and play. Or put together a local flavor guide so they can explore the area anytime.
- Gather groceries or set up monthly donation for any family in need.
- And don’t forget those who are away – send books to troops to help them pass the time until they are reunited with their friends and family.