Are you a Baby Boomer looking for a way to give back to your community? If so, there's a volunteer opportunity waiting where you can share your skills and experience -- and have fun doing it! Whether you enjoy fixing things, coaching a sport or simply sharing a smile with someone in need, your talents and time are in demand.
Baby Boomers -- the generation of 77 million Americans born between 1944 and 1964 -- are coming out in record numbers to volunteer. This group represents a boost to the volunteer world, not only because of its size, but because of the member's high levels of education, wealth and skills. According to the U.S. Census, the number of volunteers 65 and older will increase by 50 percent over the next 13 years, from fewer than 9 million in 2007 to more than 13 million in 2020. That number will continue to rise, as the youngest Boomers will not reach age 65 until 2029 [source: Corporation for National & Community Service].
So, if you have some free time and you'd like to make a meaningful difference in the world around you, take a look at these five active volunteer opportunities.
Build Homes with Habitat for Humanity
If you're handy with a hammer and nails, you might enjoy volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing to those in need. The organization builds and rehabilitates houses though volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. You'll work alongside homeowner (or partner) families, who must invest their own labor into building a house, along with a down payment and monthly mortgage.
Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization that operates in the Unites States, as well as in dozens of other countries around the world. Since its founding in 1976, the group has built over 400,000 homes and helped over 2 million people.
Whether you live in Anchorage, Alaska, or Atlanta, Ga., you can get involved with Habitat to help families in your community. You can also look into the Global Village program to help build or repair a home while experiencing another culture.
To learn more, visit www.habitat.org.
Volunteer at a Hospital
Volunteering at a hospital is a great way to give back to the community and help others feel better at the same time. The only special skills needed are an outgoing, friendly attitude and good mobility. Opportunities abound in customer service, patient and family support, and community outreach. You might be able help nurses care for babies, take photos of newborns, work in the gift shop, deliver flowers and balloons, bring cheer to patients and their families, or answer questions at the information desk.
Special talents or hobbies are also welcome in many hospitals. Volunteer musicians often play in the hospital lobby or waiting rooms. Some hospitals offer baking programs where volunteers bake and share yummy homemade cookies with patients and their families, or quilting and knitting programs where talented volunteers offer comfort with handmade baby blankets or lap blankets. If computers are your specialty, you might be able to help out with data entry or assisting guests with wireless services.
Contact your local hospital to discover the opportunities to volunteer in your area.
Share Your Canine Best Friend
Do you love dogs? You'll find several enjoyable ways to make a difference, from walking dogs at an animal shelter to helping disabled people or senior citizens to care for their pet through an organization like PAWS, to making nurturing calls with your own furry friend.
Organizations such as The Good Dog Foundation or Caring Companions offer a chance to bring animal-assisted therapy to children, handicapped or elderly individuals. Once your dog passes a basic temperament test, you'll be asked to go through a training program to prepare your pet for work as a therapy dog. Soon, you'll be able to make regular visits with Buddy or Fido to people in hospitals or nursing homes, bringing smiles and comfort with you.
You can also consider raising a puppy for an organization like Canine Companions. You'll provide a safe home and general care for a puppy, take him through obedience training, and offer socialization until he's around 15 months old. Then, much like when a teenager goes off to college, he'll go through advanced training to become a companion pet. It's a terrific way to volunteer your time and help provide a more independent life for children or adults with disabilities.
Become a Mentor
When you look back at the days at school or early in your career, is there a boss or a coach who made a positive difference in your life? That's the kind of relationship that a mentor provides: someone who serves as a role model, cheerleader, advocate and friend, sharing their experiences and offering sage advice. Mentoring opportunities abound today, through professional organizations in your area of expertise (whether accounting, auto repair or public relations) or through mentoring-focused organizations such as the National Mentoring Partnership.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters is another popular mentoring organization that pairs a child with a role model. You'll spend time doing things with a child or teenager that you enjoy, whether it's reading books, playing sports or helping out with homework. The results are well worth the time volunteers invest: Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Big Brother and Sisters, mentees were 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs and 52 percent less likely to skip school [source: Big Brothers/Big Sisters].
Support a Cause You Believe In
Are you passionate about a cause? Interested in helping individuals who are less fortunate or who battle a specific disease? Find an organization that shares your concerns and volunteer your time for a rewarding experience. If you need help finding volunteer opportunities in your community, head to Web sites like VolunteerMatch or United We Serve.
You'll find hundreds of ways to volunteer, whether making phone calls to ask for donations or support, representing the organization at community gatherings, preparing mailings, serving meals, or even planning special fund-raising events that range from black tie dinners to 5K races. Or you may choose to help others repair their homes or clean up the environment following a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or forest fire.
Whatever you choose, volunteering makes a difference in the world around you -- and helping others is something you can feel good about.
Does the Peace Corps want retired volunteers? Learn about the Peace Corps and how retired volunteers can serve
- Big Brothers, Big Sisters. "Volunteer to start something." (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962345/k.E123/Volunteer_to_start_something.htm
- Canine Companions for Independence. "Volunteer." (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.cci.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.4010987/k.C8DE/Connect.htm.
- Habitat for Humanity. "Get Involved." (Accessed June 6, 2011) http://www.habitat.org/getinv/default.aspx
- Northside Hospital. "Community Services: Why Volunteer?" (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.northside.com/community/volunteers.aspx
- South Shore Hospital. "How You Can Help." (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.southshorehospital.org/how_you_help/volunteer_opp.htm
- "Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering." Corporation for National and Community Service. (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0307_boomer_report_summary.pdf
- The Good Dog Foundation. "What Does Good Dog Do?" (Accessed June 7, 2011) http://www.thegooddogfoundation.org/overview.html