“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr. said. We all want to know that we are making a difference, and many people turn to volunteering as a way to invest in their communities. Volunteering is good — both for organizations and for the volunteers — but it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the possible volunteer options around us.
I asked a few staff members at nonprofit organizations in my area for examples of their typical volunteer needs. Here they share their suggestions, as well as some advice for us as we decide where to focus our own efforts.
Pregnancy Medical Clinics
“Our mission is to influence others for the gospel of Christ by offering compassionate care to women facing one of the most important decisions of their life: how to deal with an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy,” says Tawnya Kitt, executive director of Choices Medical Clinic. Choices provides pregnancy testing, physician consultation, and 4-D ultrasound along with practical, emotional and spiritual support — as well as perinatal hospice for families whose preborn babies’ medical needs mean they will likely not survive past birth.
Due to the sensitive nature of their work with women, Choices volunteers are primarily female. Some serve in the reception/administrative area, while others work with clients one-on-one as counselors. “All our volunteers value the unborn and enjoy serving families,” Tawnya says. During COVID, the need for volunteers at Choices hasn’t decreased.
“This ministry has opened my eyes,” Tawnya says. “It has shown me the beauty of God’s grace, because regardless of a woman’s intent or her feelings toward the life growing inside of her, she’s still created in God’s image and needs to be treated with His love and care.”
Domestic violence shelters
The Wichita Family Crisis Center website says their mission is “to eliminate domestic violence in our community by supporting survivors through shelter, education and advocacy.”
Volunteers have helped with indirect needs such as lawn care, deep-cleaning or fundraising, and direct needs like answering the hotline. Pre-COVID, WFCC volunteers would go into hospitals to work with clients, but current hospital regulations have put that on hold. This has pushed the organization to find other creative ways to reach victims of domestic violence. “We’re trying to find ways for people to help out,” volunteer coordinator Katie Davidson says.
One new volunteer outreach is making t-shirt tote bags. The bags “have been a really big blessing,” Katie says, as COVID capacity restrictions have necessitated some clients being sheltered off-site. During COVID, volunteers have also helped with grant writing, researching statistics, and creating social media graphics.
Carrie Crow is the team lead mentor coach at Youth Horizons, a mentoring organization that works with at-risk youth ages 5-18. “We are similar to Big Brothers, Big Sisters but the main difference is we are local and faith-based,” Carrie says.
With over 40 kids currently on the waiting list for a mentor, 30 of which are boys, Carrie says their biggest need is recruiting male mentors. Youth Horizons mentors commit to at least one year of mentoring, which includes spending 1-3 hours per week with their match. “Most of the kids that are referred to our mentoring program are struggling in some way,” Carrie says. “Our goal is to come alongside these youth and provide them with one caring adult.” During COVID, their school-based mentoring program is on hold, and some mentor matches spend their weekly time over FaceTime.
Over Carrie’s five years of experience as a mentor, she has seen God at work in others and herself. “It’s eye-opening,” she says, “just seeing somebody else’s perspective.”
Senior Services of Wichita serves people ages 55 and older through senior centers, employment help and in-home support. “Our programs keep seniors living in their own homes as long as possible,” says development director Chris Heiman. By far, their largest program is their Meals on Wheels delivery service, with around 200 volunteers delivering 900 lunches every weekday.
Senior centers have been temporarily closed due to COVID, but as they reopen, more volunteers will be needed for activities. In the meantime, drivers for socially-distanced meal deliveries are always a need. And spending time with seniors can be especially rewarding, Chris points out. “Their life stories are inspiring and educational.”
Start to serve somewhere
No matter where you live, you can probably find organizations similar to these listed — as well as some that are unique to your area. My aunt Lynn has served on the board for an organization in her small town that provides vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 4RKids finds jobs that fit each individual and, before COVID, employed over 75 people. 4RKids employees make items like homemade dog biscuits, lotions, beaded lanyards for masks, and greeting cards to sell in the 4RKids store.
While volunteer needs are somewhat restricted due to COVID, there are still ways to help. “There are so many needs now,” my aunt told me. “There’s a place for everybody to serve in these kinds of situations.”
It’s true: there are so many needs. And there are so many volunteer options that both the needs and the opportunities can be overwhelming. “Try and help out in something that you’re passionate about,” Katie suggests. “However, I also think it’s wonderful whenever people expand their wings and try something new.” Sometimes people attend the WFCC training without knowing much about domestic abuse, but they want to learn. “I love that,” Katie says.
Tawnya says that seeing young people bring their creativity and enthusiasm into their ministry excites her. “I like the idea of legacy,” she says. “I believe what we do now matters to those that are coming behind us. What’s in your heart to do now that will matter in eternity?”
Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.