The difference between living in a community and becoming part of that community is as stark as Wisconsin weather in the summer compared to the winter.
One of the best ways to get involved when you move to a new area is by volunteering your time and talent at local charitable organizations that rely on the goodwill of others to thrive. In the early 2000s, nearly one in three Americans (29%) reported having volunteered at least once during the previous year, according to the National Council of Nonprofits
. Today, those numbers are much smaller, yet the need for volunteers remains.
(This is where I pitch my own need for volunteers: I’m seeking certified lifeguards to join me in patrolling Lake Monona in Madison during the Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin on Sept. 10 and the Ironman Wisconsin on Sept. 11. Contact me
Assess your strengths and how you might be able to put them to good use. Below are three types of organizations in Dane County that can always use your assistance.
- Food Pantries: The Dane County Food Pantry Network is comprised of about 50 food pantries, meal sites, and shelters throughout the county. As part of the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, the network seeks assistance with such critical tasks as distributing food, personal care supplies, and other essentials to fellow county residents; staffing food banks, and recovering food that otherwise would end up in landfills and providing it to hungry individuals and families instead.
- Humane Societies and Animal Rescues: The Dane County Humane Society, which is dedicated to “helping people help animals,” offers numerous volunteering opportunities that allow individuals to support every facet of its work — from animal care and comfort to behind-the-scenes services to outreach and education. Most volunteer positions are filled by adults, but some also are available for kids between the ages of 8 and 17. Several dogs and cat rescues operate throughout the county, too, and they rely on volunteers for a variety of tasks. Shelters include Shelter From the Storm, Underdog Pet Rescue of Wisconsin, and Fetch Wisconsin Rescue.
- Youth Sports: Most medium-sized and large communities throughout Dane County provide local youth sports opportunities — recreational, competitive, or both. Typically staffed by parents of participants, sports clubs, leagues and teams do not survive without volunteers to coach, oversee concessions, manage finances, and more. To find out about opportunities in your area, connect with your parks and recreation department, school district, YMCA, and/or local affiliates of such national organizations as Little League Baseball and Softball, USA Swimming, and the Amateur Athletic Union.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet like-minded people and integrate with your community. I encourage you to give it a try.
(Photo: My husband, posing as Santa Claus for holiday pet photos; all proceeds go to dog and cat rescues in Dane County.)