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Valley Life

June 15, 2014

Helping Hands: Fill your free time this summer by becoming a volunteer

Opportunities abound in the Wabash Valley

Summer is upon Terre Haute and with the warm weather and open swimming pools comes an exuberant amount of free time for busy children. Outside sports are one way to fill the time and energy, but what else can families do together to benefit their youth and communities? Volunteer. The holidays are not the only time when volunteering opportunities are offered. All year several organizations can use a helping hand, and summer provides kids out of school a little more time to give back and parents the opportunity to show them how. From the benefits volunteering provides to finding the right place to start, this summer, get out and give.

Aside from the sheer selfless joy that comes with helping others, volunteering can provide a multitude of benefits to all those involved. Students who need to gain experience for future jobs and college applications will find that volunteering is an extremely beneficial resource to include on a resume. It can give individuals the chance to test out a field and learn more about a future career.

Volunteering also provides participants the chance to learn more about themselves and their community and to make a difference in the town they live in.

Volunteering together as a family is a great way to experience these benefits together and to teach children by example. Although several places in town do require participants be of a certain age to register, there are opportunities out there for younger students, such as the Vigo County YMCA.

“We have several opportunities to volunteer at the YMCA. We like to find out what someone likes to do and what their strengths are and find something that will go along with that,” said Suzy Spears, Vigo County YMCA volunteer coordinator.

If family fitness is your passion, the YMCA is a great place to spend the summer. The YMCA focuses on each volunteer’s passions and strengths when it comes to assigning tasks. Responsibilities include setting up a bulletin board for members to see, helping in the pool area, working outside, spending time with the children in the child watch and more. Families can even volunteer together upon request and there are no age restrictions. The only requirement is that a parent accompanies any child under the age of 12. For more information, call 812-232-8446 and contact Spears or visit www.vigocountyymca.org.

Individuals who enjoy working with children or foresee a potential future working in the museum industry can check out Terre Haute’s Children’s Museum.

“The majority of our volunteers help out on our exhibit floor, engaging children and their families in our exhibits, keeping the areas safe and having fun,” said Jamie McDowell, Terre Haute Children’s Museum volunteer and Science Story Guy.

Learn how your body works, “excavate” dinosaur skeletons or climb through a tree house; at the Children’s Museum volunteers are encouraged to interact with kids while keeping the area safe and having fun at the same time. Shifts are available six days each week for volunteers in four-hour increments. Each volunteer must be at least 14 years old and will need to fill out an application on the museum website at terrehautechildrensmuseum.com.

Museum enthusiasts can also spend the summer learning more about Terre Haute in the Vigo County Historical Society Museum. With three floors and 18 display rooms, this museum focuses on the history of Terre Haute and Vigo County. Volunteers create a connection with the museum visitors by greeting, answering questions and assisting museum staff with a variety of projects. For more information visit www.vchsmuseum.org.

Another great contributor to Terre Haute’s culture and beauty is the assortment of parks in town. The City Parks Department offers a variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the summer, including a monthly Invasive Species Removal Day. Groups and individuals are also encouraged to contact the office for trash and debris pick up, graffiti cleanup and help with events such as the annual Memorial Day 5k Run and Halloween. Volunteers are required to sign a waiver at the Parks Department office, and there are certain age restrictions. For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.terreahutein.

gov/departments/parks.

One of the more commonly referred to organizations for volunteering is The Humane Society. For animal lovers and future veterinarians, this is a great place to gain experience and save the lives of countless furry friends in Vigo County. The Terre Haute Humane Society shelter has a plethora of opportunities from the widespread Outreach Program, which allows volunteers to speak throughout the city on behalf of the organization, to animal photographer and nursing home visits with animals. Families can also help by becoming foster parents to animals in need. The Humane Society is looking for volunteers on the fourth Saturday of every month, from 1 to 3 p.m. Volunteers must submit an application at www.thhs.org and be 16 years or older.

Additional nonprofit organizations that are always seeking volunteers include:

The United Way of the Wabash Valley: The United Way hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, including the annual Pilot Campaign Kickoff which encourages local businesses to get out and give on July 7, and the Stuff the Bus fundraiser on Aug. 4 as a way to help provide area children in need with school supplies and the necessities to learn and prosper in the upcoming school year. Find these events plus a calendar of additional volunteer opportunities at www.uwwv.org.

Light House Mission: This nonprofit organization seeks to minister the love of Jesus Christ to those in need through the provision of assistance in the areas of guidance, counseling, education, job training, shelter, food, clothing, health care and independent living communities. Open 365 days a year, volunteers are always needed to sort items for the Thrift Stores, help with food preparation, serve meals, paint, clean and much more. For more information, visit www.thlhm.org.

Happiness Bag: Happiness Bag seeks to help children and adults in the community living with disabilities by providing adapted recreational and educational services and programs that encourage the potential of these unique individuals. Volunteers can help this summer with Polar Plunging, bowling leagues, Summer Day Camp and more. For more information, visit www.happinessbag.org.

Last but not least, individuals looking for opportunities to volunteer should check area nursing homes, such as Westminster Village, and their local church. After attending Sunday morning service, speak to your parish leader about volunteering opportunities. Many Vigo County churches have opportunities to help within the organization and throughout the community. The great thing about volunteering is there are always openings. Spend time as a family this summer giving back to your hometown.

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