Volunteer Opportunities Popping Up with the Daisies!

Spring is here and the warm weather is finally enough to bring most college students out of their dorm room hibernation. It’s the perfect time for shorts, sunglasses, and getting out and serving your community! While many local organizations offer volunteer opportunities year-round, many more pop up with the daisies in the springtime. There’s something available for everyone, so I figured I’d share a few opportunities with you!

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The increase in temperature and longer days may inspire you to head outdoors and get back in shape. An excellent way to do this is to participate in a charity walk or 5k. You can burn some calories while helping to raise money and awareness for a wide variety of great causes, and if you’re not in running shape, most events are always looking for volunteers to help with race day support. You can join the Hope for the Homeless 5k, the LASOS Running of the Bulls 5k Fun Run, or participate in The Color Run as a volunteer if your running shoes have been in the back of the closet for a while. Don’t worry, there are plenty more where those came from- you can check out Road Race Runner to find a race that benefits a cause you love on a date that works with your schedule!

mdspcaFor those of you with furry friends (or even just a love for them), there are ways for you to get involved this spring as well! Baltimore BARCS and the Maryland SPCA are located in Baltimore City and are always looking for volunteers to help within many facets of their organizations. If you find yourself a little further away from the heart of Baltimore, you can also check out the Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown.

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If neither of those opportunities seem quite your speed, but you still want to head outside to get involved, look into helping out with one of the following organizations. Project Clean Stream organizes area cleanups on a fairly regular basis, allowing you to get down and dirty while making your community a more beautiful place. The Parks & People Foundation also offers opportunities involving cleanups and planting, as well as chances to work with the youth of the community as a counselor, coach, or field trip chaperone.

For those of you allergy sufferers with a love for the indoors, there are plenty of ongoing opportunities for you too! If you’re interested in helping those suffering from the effects of homelessness, poverty, or hunger, feel free to check out St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Our Daily Bread, and Meals on Wheels. If you’d like to exercise your creative side, there are opportunities at Art with a Heart and through Arts Every Day. One of my personal favorite service activities is hosted by Operation Welcome Home Maryland, where you’re able to welcome troops home and thank them for their service at BWI Airport.

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Finally, there is no limit to the opportunities available to students in the Baltimore area! Baltimore Collegetown hosts a volunteer page on its website, each college in the area has its own community service opportunities, and there are countless databases that you can find opportunities on! If you’re having trouble getting started or don’t know where to look, Business Volunteers Unlimited, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County have great resources!

So before the semester ends, consider this your chance to get out, get involved, and “Spring” into action in Baltimore!

Cori Caskey, Baltimore Collegetown Intern
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Baltimore Free School

Did you ever want to take a class without exams and grades? Want to take a class just to learn more about the subject? Then check this out…the Baltimore Free School is a community funded project that provides classes, for free!

Baltimore Free School Organizer Jessica Lewis.

Started by the people behind Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse and radical educators and volunteers, the Free School isn’t your typical classroom experience. From Portuguese class to yoga, there’s something for everyone. And if you want to teach a class, go right ahead!

I became familiar with the Free School after doing a project on the organizers for class. Last summer I was on the lookout for new things to try and stumbled back on the Free School website. After browsing through their summer listings I found a Magazine Journalism course taught by the Senior Editor of Baltimore Magazine, Evan Serpick.

I didn’t make it to every class, but still learned a lot about journalism and freelance writing.  We sat in a circle as we talked about story ideas and sources. The laid-back, open environment made it easy to generate discussion and brainstorm ideas with one another. Without the strict syllabus, the class was able to flow without the stress of due dates and exams.

If you’re like me and can’t stay away from the classroom over summer break, the Free School is the place to check out.

…More interesting, fun and free!

Book Thing
Free Store

Volunteer and listen to some live tunes

Reverb volunteers

Last summer I had the opportunity to volunteer with Reverb and see John Mayer live!  Reverb is an organization that educates and promotes community activism and a sustainable future.

On of the best parts about Reverb is the organization focuses on greening the music industry by providing custom greening programs for music tours and educating fans at concerts.

So on a hot August evening I got to spread the word about reducing our carbon footprint and Mayer’s Another Kind of Green organization.

Volunteering with Reverb was a fun opportunity to inform music fans of all ages about ways to get involved and help our environment, even in the smallest of ways.

John Mayer at PNC Bank Arts Center, New Jersey.

My next Reverb adventure will be at the Brett Dennen concert in D.C.

Looking for another way to combine your love for volunteering and music? Check out HeadCount which promotes community activism by getting people to register to vote, right at the concert!

Students Helping Honduras

Towson University Students Helping Honduras

It’s hard to put the Leadershape experience into words. My experience isn’t any easier to explain, but I could tell you it was an amazing time that helped me learn about myself and the people and places around me.

Two girls I met on my Leadershape adventure were Amanda and Jessa. The sophomores had just arrived back from a service learning trip in Honduras and only a day later was on a bus with me headed for a week-long retreat.

After saying a quick hello to the two I was amazed by their positive energy.  You would think hopping from a service learning trip straight to a leadership retreat would make you exhausted and drained, but Amanda and Jessa couldn’t contain their excitement.

The two gave me and the others a glimpse at what they had witnessed in Honduras with beautiful and heart-wrenching stories. Even before they had left, Amanda and Jessa knew they would bring a chapter of Students Helping Honduras to Towson University.

One year after Leadershape…

Towson University’s Students Helping Honduras chapter raised $5,500 at their biggest fundraiser HonduROCK.

This past Friday the benefit concert raised money to go towards building a children’s home for the orphans of the Honduran village of Villa Soleada. The orphans that Amanda and Jessa held and played with last year and a handful of my close friends met for the first time in January.

Members of SHH headlined the event with their band The Lake Effect and even more support came from the other performances, Fools and Horses, The Three Tree Experience and Hang On, who unexpectedly donated the proceeds from their merchandise.

Tabling events, bagel and coffee sales and countless other fundraising events have helped SHH come closer to their goal of $40,000 and won’t stop until their goal is reached.

Interested in joining…
Towson’s SHH meets every Monday at 8 pm in the Center for Student Diversity.

Show your support…
Green Turtle
April 18
408 York Rd.
Towson, Md 21204

Rita’s Night
April 20
7206 York Rd.Towson, Md 21204
5-7pm

Lend a hand during spring break

The weather isn’t exactly warming up, but sunny days are on everyone’s mind. And although the semester’s still fresh, spring break is just around the corner. So in between writing papers and studying, it’s just about that time to get your spring plans rolling.

While many college students hope to go somewhere where there’s always an umbrella in their cup and an ocean breeze, there’s so many other spring break options.

A great opportunity for students is an alternative spring break. Alternative Spring Break Connections is a program that provides service learning trips for students. ABC gives students the chance to do some traveling but also help communities with specific projects.

Towson University’s ABC has traveled all over the country from Texas, Miami, to South Dakota. This past winter break students traveled to Boquete, Panama and participant Jessica Calle said it was an unforgettable experience.

“I had a great experience there,” she said. “Some moments really inspired me and made me think about life.”

Abigail Campbell, president of Towson’s Alternative Spring Break Connections went to Galveston, Texas in 2009. Her days were jammed packed, but her time in Texas was memorable and impactful.

“The trip was amazing, I did everything from organizing someone’s attic to pulling trash out of a swamp,” she said. “The experience I had was life changing, at the beginning of the week we started working on rebuilding a house and by the end of the week we had it completely painted, which was awesome to see.”

This spring, students have the option of going to New Orleans, Detroit and North Carolina.

Another interesting opportunity is through Towson’s Hillel and the Center for Student Diversity. Connecting Communities is a trip that gives students the chance to learn how Jewish and African American communities worked together during the civil rights movement. The trip starts in Birmingham then students will travel by bus to Atlanta.

Encountour is another organization that helps students plan service learning trips. Students are exposed to new cultures and do what they call, Naked Travel. Encountour’s Naked Travel gives volunteers a chance to learn about these new places and cultures without barriers to see what’s really going on.

There’s so many places that you can travel to and help, but there’s also many options right in your neighborhood. If you’re looking to make a difference, big or small, be sure to check out your campus community contact.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in a service activity and want to learn more about civic engagement, the Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Conference: Journeys Through Service: Passport to Change is a great place to network and get cool ideas.

So let’s hope the groundhog was right and spring weather comes soon, but in the meantime warm up with visions of new adventures and explorations.

What’s in your New Year’s resolution Baltimore?

Hey there!

A new year, a new decade has snuck up on us once again, therefore it’s time to establish some goals for the new year…an official NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION!  Of course, there are the typical goals that we set:  get in better shape, eat healthier, keep better touch with family and friends (I bet cell phone companies are happy about the number of minutes used and texts sent in January!), etc.  Personally, I’ve never made a formal resolution because well, I never really believed in it.  During the holidays when we had a week off, I gave the notion of writing down my goals for the year some more thought and I was like really what have I got to lose?  All these years I probably wasn’t being as productive or true to myself and that was without writing everything down, maybe it’s time to turn the tides a bit and give this written resolution bit a try. 

So of course, I started off with the basics to help break things down:  be a better grad student, lose weight, eat healthier, do a better job of keeping in touch with friends.  I progressively built on those and stated that I want to read for leisure (not just a textbook…ick!), specifically, one book a month.  Then I started thinking about what I want out of life – I want a house, to be at a certain income level, find love, to be a good public servant…essentially establishing more long-term goals.  Long-term goals are great because they can easily be revised and your can start making baby steps in the near future to help reach that bigger pot of gold that’s waiting in the wings 🙂    

Then I started thinking about the public servant piece a little bit more.  I’ve been shying away from volunteering a lot because of family and school commitments and I felt that I should give an organization my all if I decide to volunteer with them.  However, I realized that just because I can’t volunteer 5-10 hours a week with one or two organizations doesn’t mean I shouldn’t volunteer period.  If it is my fundamental belief that small incremental changes lead to further progress practice, shouldn’t I practice what I preach?  There are plenty of places where you can search out short and long-term opportunities and honestly one of the best resources to check out is Business Volunteers Unlimited AKA BVU.  There’s clearly a lot of talent here in Baltimore, a lot of driven individuals, and a lot of organizations/people needing our help.  Wouldn’t it be ideal if all just a did little to help our city, our region? 

Recently, I signed up as a tax preparer through the Baltimore Cash Campaign.  The Baltimore Cash Campaign offers free tax preparation at various centers for families making less than $49,000 a year and individuals making less than $25,000 a year.  I have to a attend a couple training sessions for about 8 hours and then I have to commit to 8 hours of actual tax preparation between February and the infamous April 15 deadline – that’s it!  I have a business background, passion for helping, and strong customer service skills, so this is the perfect fit for me.  Not to mention, I can still volunteer amidst my prior commitments.

So what do you say Baltimore?  Keep the basics in your resolution, but think on a larger scale and contemplate how you can incorporate some kind of service into your new year’s resolution.  There are plenty of opportunities out there – you just gotta go out and find them!  Visit BVU’s website:  www.bvumaryland.org to start!

For now, this is Ankur….

Signing off!