Discover 21 Ways to Volunteer and Give Back to the Community

Jennifer Hansen with Dreams on Horseback

Beyond the emotional and physical satisfaction that comes from assisting those in need, volunteer work provides a sense of purpose and community, as well as an opportunity to acquire a new set of skills. Central Ohio is home to an abundance of volunteer possibilities for anyone interested in offering their time or supporting a cause larger than themselves. Perhaps the most cumbersome aspect of volunteering is choosing from the hundreds of organizations in need of assistance, so we’ve selected a handful to get you started.

Home for Families believes education is the most important factor in preventing future generations from becoming homeless. HFF education services include programs that assist academic advancement, youth development and healthy families. The organization is particularly in need of volunteers on Tuesdays, the day of the week when material goods are sorted, organized and prepared for distribution.

An ambitious, dynamic and expanding veteran-driven organization, Operation Meraki is focused on restoring the dignity of former service members by helping them share their stories and mentoring them toward success. Operation Meraki offers virtual opportunities to volunteer, engage and assist veterans.

Dreams on Horseback offers a wide range of programs that are suitable for participants of all ages. Initiatives include therapeutic riding, equine-assisted learning, sensory experiences for those with Alzheimer’s disease, vocational training, military programs, field excursions and team-building. No prior experience with horses is required.

Numerous adolescents may be coping with early pregnancy or other concerns. Mothers Helping Mothers is a nonprofit organization that empowers young mothers between the ages of 12 and 24 and provides compassionate care to those with nowhere else to turn. Staff members with expertise in case management, counseling, personal finance, public relations, social work and legal concerns supervise personalized programs for individuals committed to their futures.

Recognizing that every person’s sorrow is unique, LOSS provides resources, understanding and support to those who have suffered the death of a loved one as a result of suicide. Volunteers will receive continuous assistance and participate in role-based training sessions designed just for them.

Colony Cats is a volunteer-run organization whose main objective is to combat cat overpopulation in Central Ohio through education and spay/neuter initiatives. Since 2002, the organization has put over 15,000 animals in homes. Volunteer possibilities include aiding the cat adoption center, assisting with adoption events, feeding feral cats in nearby controlled colonies and transporting animals to veterinarian clinics.

All THAT seeks devoted Columbus residents who can build a long-term connection with teenagers. Mentors must appreciate youths and help them identify possibilities and future successes. All That mentors aid students academically throughout the year, as well as offer career and life guidance. Mentors meet with teenagers both individually and in groups, and participate in activities and community service excursions.

Calling all experienced professionals: ECDI Women’s Business Centers is looking for individuals to use their expertise and abilities to benefit Ohio women business owners. Volunteers will strengthen their professional network while assisting local small businesses, helping women achieve their goals and build communities.

Eradicating “period poverty” is a group effort. The Period Pantry Project seeks to guarantee that everyone in the Columbus region who needs menstruation products has access to them, despite cost barriers, lack of transportation or other obstacles. Anyone can volunteer in the comfort of their own home by creating packaged period supply kits or hosting virtual fundraisers. Delivery drivers are also needed.

LEON was founded in 2002 as a network and cooperative of people, organizations, companies and agencies committed to fostering a healthy Latino community in Central Ohio through the creation and funding of education and empowerment programs. The efforts of LEON—or the Latino Empowerment Outreach Network—concentrate on health, education, advocacy and communication. Volunteers may work in the Education Committee, Advocacy Committee or Health Committee.

Kaleidoscope Youth Center Inc., founded by and for youths, employs a varied, experienced team that partners with LGBTQ+ young people in Columbus and around Ohio to offer free programming, housing and support services. Volunteer options include assisting with events, such as Other Prom, Pride Open House & Celebration, Bar-B-Que and the Unity Soiree, the major autumn fundraiser.

More than 170,000 daily meals are provided by the Mid-Ohio Food Collective to needy individuals in Eastern and Central Ohio. The great bulk of healthy food handled annually by the collective is distributed directly through their network of 680 member organizations. Duties of potential volunteers include checking for expired food, opened packages and spoilage; marking cans; and packaging food and household products. Individuals and groups collaborate to package produce, glean goods, register consumers and carry food into vehicle trunks.

Ta’shaun McGowan cuts cilantro for a salad at The Highland Youth Garden’s “Green Teens” program in June 2021.

The Highland Youth Garden provides children with a comprehensive, interactive learning environment, as well as the space and instruction necessary to produce their own food. Working with over 350 children each year, the half-acre garden annually produces over 3,000 pounds of food. Volunteers will have the chance to assist with garden workshops; help with planting, seeding and weeding; build structures and signage in the garden; and participate in digital fundraising and marketing projects.

As Ohio’s largest, donation-supported wildlife hospital with on-site veterinary care for wildlife rehabilitation, Ohio Wildlife Center serves all of the state’s 88 counties and admits more than 7,500 animals annually. Volunteer opportunities include landscaping, grounds maintenance and animal transportation.

Equitas Health aims to supply a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, those at risk for contracting HIV, and those in search of a welcoming health care home. Volunteers can become a “health literacy partner,” which entails giving input on print and digital materials, or joining the Client Advisory Council, a group that provides feedback on services.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center patients undergoing heart transplants and other major treatments may find solace at the Unverferth House, which was built specifically for their families. Volunteering at Unverferth House means assisting with routine home duties and yard maintenance, as well as providing meals for a group of up to 15 individuals at a time.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive support from Open Door Columbus, which encourages its members to get in touch with their creative sides. There are many different ways to become involved, some of which include serving as a mentor, helping out with creative programming, contributing to the garden, providing instruction in music and dance or taking part in collaborative art and craft projects.

A Kid Again is devoted to providing children with terminal illnesses the opportunity to live as “a kid again” and go on exciting adventures. The organization encourages participation from the whole family, with the goal of promoting the health and happiness of all affected by an illness’ circumstances. Volunteer as an “adventure guide” by offering your assistance in event planning, familiarizing families with amusement parks and creating joyful environments for families experiencing adversity.

Without support, disadvantaged women entering the workforce confront several obstacles, from corporate culture to personal economics. EnVision Proven Success offers networking and professional development. Monthly workshops and seminars cover many themes and include keynote speakers, career counseling, referrals and resources. Leadership-experienced volunteers are sought to attend classes and help organize events, fundraise and donate, as well as sponsor members or join the board.

The Columbus Urban League, part of the National Urban League, was founded in 1918 with the goal of advancing African Americans and other marginalized groups economically, educationally and socially to increase their level of self-determination. Individuals may donate their time in dozens of areas, including employment coaching, business resource organizations and intervention, summer youth and rehabilitation programs.

Freedom a la Cart empowers survivors of sex exploitation and human trafficking to live free and autonomous lives. The organization established a rehabilitation facility where survivors may recover, improve and prepare for sustained employment and reintegration into society. Many participants have never had a consistent, loving and supportive connection in their lives, rendering a positive mentorship vital. Additionally, volunteers are sought in the catering kitchen, café and transportation departments.

This story is from the December 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.

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