The inevitable song is probably already in your head, so let's get it out of the way now. All together: "Young man, there's no need to feel down..."
If you're interested in volunteering for the YMCA, the only accurate part of that line is "there's no need to feel down." To volunteer at the Y, as it's affectionately known, you don't have to be young, and you don't have to be a man. You just have to be interested in the mission of the organization: "to put Christian principles into practice in ways that help build healthy spirit, body, and mind for all" [source: YMCA of the USA].
The YMCA -- or Young Men's Christian Association -- is a large nonprofit with international reach and several thousand local branches. You're likely familiar with the organization as a fitness center -- it runs gyms and pools across the country and is one of the largest providers of health and well-being services in the U.S. You might know that it collaborates with hospitals, courts, libraries, museums, public housing agencies and other organizations to help them strengthen their offerings [source: YMCA of the USA]. You may also know it as a place where those who are down on their luck can get a meal and a cheap bed for the night.
The YMCA believes in strengthening local communities -- both by providing assistance and by drawing on the resources that are already there. So it works with local volunteers. Volunteers teach classes, coach athletic teams, lead groups and provide mentoring. They help out with administration, organization, development (fundraising) and management. They offer pro bono professional services and serve on the organization's boards or committees [source: YMCA of the USA].
The YMCA coordinates volunteer work on the local level, and each YMCA facility operates autonomously, so specific opportunities may differ in your community [source: YMCA of the USA]. But you can be sure that -- as the Village People sang -- there's a place for you at the Y.
In this article, we'll look at some of the volunteer opportunities available, as well as the benefits of being a YMCA volunteer. Young man (and the rest of you), click on to the next page.