What do those two words mean to you?
Perhaps it means putting on a bake sale to benefit your child’s school. Other times, that may look like spending a few days at the local library re-shelving books.
Giving back comes in many different forms, and studies show numerous benefits come from volunteering.
In the military, giving back is daily life. It’s the ultimate act of service.
For civilians, being surrounded by military members — whether veterans or active duty — can bring about a sense of patriotism and desire to serve. While not everyone can join the service, volunteering provides the option to give back to the military community in big ways.
Why volunteer? Here’s a few reasons:
- Makes a difference in others’ lives
- Helps you learn new skills
- Develops empathy
- Connects you to others in your community
- Gives you a sense of purpose
- Opportunities to make new friends and increase life longevity
- and much more!
Who doesn’t want to live longer and have more friends just for doing good in the world?
If supporting the military is your passion, check out these organizations dedicated to assisting service members and their families. Volunteers like you are needed in a variety of ways.
Here’s five volunteer opportunities to get you started:
1. Dogs on Deployment (DoD)
What they do: DoD was founded on the belief that no dog should be surrendered to a shelter due to a military member having to deploy. A dual military couple with a dog created the organization to help others who want their pet to be safe during deployments.
Volunteers temporarily board a service member’s pet while they are deployed or involved with other service commitments where they cannot take care of their pets.
How you can help: These days dogs AND cats are available for volunteers to accommodate for active duty, veterans and wounded warriors. The owner is still financially responsible for their pet while it’s under the care of a DoD boarder, including toys, food, supplies, veterinary expenses, etc.
If you’ve seen those amazing homecoming videos where pets lose their minds when they see their owners come back, that’s exactly the type of reunion you get to witness firsthand with this organization.
Use the website’s search tool to see if there’s a DoD pet you can help today!
Perfect role for: Pet lovers. If you love animals, this one’s for you.
2. Project EverGreen
What they do: If you love the great outdoors, Project EverGreen offers a special way to give back while being outside. On top of everything else, military members often forget that they will need someone to take care of their yard, too, while they deploy.
This nationwide program offers help to both disabled vets and active service members and has provided an estimated $8 million in value of volunteer services to families.
For volunteers, sometimes that means just cutting grass for a disabled veteran. Other times, it may mean snow removal for a young mom who has two kids and a deployed husband.
How you can help: Project EverGreen serves deployed service members and Post 9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability by taking care of yard services for the length of a deployment, usually 6 months to a year. If helping a disabled vet, the requirement is two years.
Perfect role for: Those who may already have a lawn care business (or snow plow!), or who really love being outdoors.
3. Operation Gratitude
What they do: Care packages are the most treasured items troops receive when deployed. It gives them courage, hope and a reminder that someone at home still cares.
Operation Gratitude sends care packages with snacks, personal letters, entertainment and handmade items to troops, first responders, vets, military families and wounded heroes.
Over two million packages have been sent so far with the help of volunteers!
How you can help: Groups, businesses and individuals are all encouraged to volunteer. Host a collection drive for items like toiletries and non-perishable snacks, write letters, knit a scarf or hat and starting fundraisers are all ways to help.
Perfect role for: Those who are crafty, love big social groups (packing parties!) and/or are good at organizing big collection drives for a good cause.
4. Operation Homefront
What they do: This nonprofit is focused on helping military families thrive in the communities they reside in by providing critical financial assistance, long-term stability and recurring support programs. Rent/mortgage, utilities and food are the most common forms of assistance requested by military families through the program.
Families have received mortgage-free homes and wounded veterans are provided rent-free transitional through just a few of the programs offered by Operation Homefront.
How you can help: From special events (like holiday meal giveaways) to staff-level volunteers, there’s a need for helpers in several capacities. Check current volunteer opportunities for one-time events and regular, ongoing events.
Community outreach, grant writing, grant research, advisory board members and volunteer coordinators are just some of the positions that are open across the nation. Website maintenance, social media, photography, accounting and other skills are also areas volunteers are needed.
Perfect role for: All! Creative types, business people, social butterflies, organized individuals and families.
5. Gary Sinise Foundation
What they do: Best known for his role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, Gary Sinise plays a huge philanthropic role in the military community. His foundation assists defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.
The foundation has several programs, including one that builds smart homes for severely disabled veterans. Another program, Soaring Valor, takes WWII vets to New Orleans to visit the National WWII Museum where they can record their war stories. For those who cannot travel, a historian travels to the veteran and records their memories in the comfort of their home.
How you can help: The foundation encourages the public to engage their community through organizing fundraising events like golf tournaments and marathon runs.
Perfect role for: For the super organized and event planners out there, this one offers a unique volunteer challenge.
Make 2018 A Year of Giving
Whether you choose one of these or another nonprofit, consider making 2018 your year to give back. It will make a difference in your community and in your life.
VolunteerMatch.org matches volunteers with organizations they’re passionate about in their area. Check it out today for other ways to get involved in volunteering.
What’s your favorite organization to volunteer for? Share in the comments below!