Monday, January 15, 2018

Volunteering for Different Age Groups

There is really no age requirement for volunteering. In fact, the earlier that volunteering begins and continues throughout childhood, the more likely a person is to participate in community activities as an adult. Whether a participant reaches out to one person or a village across the world, he or she has made a significant difference in the life of another. This article presents a few of the many volunteer ideas for different age groups.

1. Volunteer with Pre-school Aged Children
One tip to keep in mind is to tailor the volunteer activity to your child’s personality, abilities, and interests. For example, if your child is very young, volunteer activities that require hours of physical work may not be a good fit. If she loves to be active and would prefer to be outdoors, participating in a park clean-up or riding a tricycle or bicycle in a bike-a-thon might be a fun way for her to help others.

You may also want to consider activities that allow you to volunteer together as a family. Working together as a family to help others is not only a great way to set an example for your child, but it’s also a wonderful way to spend time together and have fun doing something that benefits others.

2. Volunteer with Elementary School Children
Encouraging kids to get involved in the community and volunteering to help those who are less fortunate can cause children to develop a sense of gratitude and self-worth. The value of doing charitable acts for others is terrific, and kids will feel a sense of pride when they know that their actions are making someone else's life happy. Plenty of volunteer opportunities are available for kids, as long as you know where to look! When you begin to teach your kids about giving, talk to your kids to find out what types of activities they are interested in and take their ages and abilities into account. 

The Service Learning process and projects that are ultimately selected and accomplished is a great way to implement volunteering for elementary age children.

3. Volunteering for Middle School Students
Raising children who are civically minded isn’t easy. But you can expose your child to volunteerism and encourage your preteen to give back in a number of ways. When kids volunteer, good things happen. By volunteering or by helping others, your child learns valuable life skills, but he also learns how important it is to support organizations he cares about and causes that interest him.

There are many ways your child can make a difference.

Start with projects that he or she can incorporate into a preteen’s busy schedule, and then add bigger projects that require more time. You might also want to consider volunteering together. That way you can spend quality time together, and set a great example for your preteen.

One of the great things about raising a preteen is that they are at an age when they can take on more responsibility and even give more to their schools, communities and other organizations. One of the ways tweens can contribute is through service projects. Some middle schools even require that their students give back by participating in community service projects either as a class or on their own.

By participating or volunteering, your child can learn leadership skills, a little about the community in which he lives and even a little about his own interests and passions. He or she may also learn a little more about how organization and support groups operate, and how challenging it can be at times to work through the proper channels to get the job done.

4. Volunteer Ideas for High School Students
In High School, volunteering takes on the potential of a new purpose. Not only does it allow the student to gain insights, be productive and participate within the school and community, it provides a venue for resume building, material for college applications and completes a well-rounded picture for one’s application.

Students in high school are able to accept more challenging volunteer positions and larger group volunteer activities.

5. Volunteer Ideas for College Students
College students fill the void between high school and adulthood in volunteerism. They are capable of adult responsibilities, very large group activities and volunteering through travel, either domestically or internationally. National volunteer efforts such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corp are also options for college students. 
6. Volunteer Ideas for Parents and Families
Modeling volunteering is the best way to get your family involved for a lifetime of volunteering and community service. Always keep the needs of the youngest child in mind, particularly if the adult is otherwise distracted.

Family volunteering allows your family to learn the importance of charity and giving of oneself. It encompasses, perhaps, the broadest area of needs.

7. Older Volunteers

Older volunteers have the time and resources to give freely of their time and talent. Encouraging them to share their skills is a great way to place skilled volunteers in non-profits or agencies where their life skills may be well utilized.

After retirement, however, it is important to know if an older volunteer desires to share their skills or try something completely new and different. A thorough volunteer interview allows for the best potential placement.

Contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley for more information about volunteer placements at (319) 272-2087, email, or visit

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 King Holiday Serves Others

Volunteers may participate locally as a part of the MLK Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service marks the beginning of the year of service as millions of Americans honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by contributing their time, voice and money to improve their communities. Join the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley in meaningful volunteer activities and service projects to advance Dr. King’s vision on Monday, January 15.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is part of two events on Monday, January 15. First, elementary age youth and their families are invited to attend a morning of service at the Cedar Falls Public Library, 504 Main Street. From 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. participants will take part in a variety of service projects for community agencies.  

In addition, the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is partnering with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and the University of Northern Iowa’s Service and Leadership Council to host a food packaging event from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Maucker Union on UNI’s campus. Participants, age 12 and over, are invited to help pack for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s Backpack Program.

Dr. King taught us that everyone has a role to play in making our communities great. These are small attempts to fulfill Dr. King’s dream.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley works to promote and support effective volunteerism and serve as the resource and coordination center for volunteers and community partnerships.

Contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley with questions or to secure additional volunteer opportunities at 272-2087. The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley offers local volunteer opportunities from 160 nonprofit agencies. Volunteer opportunities may also be accessed at

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Why Volunteering Makes the Perfect New Year’s Resolution

Around this time of year, our thoughts turn to becoming better. Many of us make resolutions, or at the very least, make a mental list of things to improve over the coming months. This year, in addition to that diet and exercise plan, resolve to reach out to your community. Making volunteer work a regular part of your new year is easier than you might think.

Why volunteer?
  • It's easy to see how volunteering blesses our communities. Volunteers provide workers and resources that non-profit organizations need to survive. Without regular volunteers, many entities that support those most vulnerable wouldn't exist. It takes a dedicated workforce to meet the needs of our communities, and you have valuable skills to offer.
  • However, volunteers also reap rewards. Volunteerism is a great way to enhance your resume and make new contacts, which are vital components of landing a rewarding career in today's competitive job market. Volunteering also comes with a host of mental health benefits. Regular volunteers report lower levels of loneliness and feel a great connection to their community. Volunteers also have lower rates of depression than the general population.
  • A growing body of research also shows that volunteering is good for your physical health. The Journal of Psychology and Aging found that volunteers over age 50 have lower blood pressure than their same age peers. It turns out that volunteering is good for the heart in more than the symbolic sense.
Overcoming obstacles
  • The biggest barrier to regular volunteerism is finding the time. Between work and family obligations, many of us simply can't squeeze in one more thing. That doesn't mean you can't find ways to give back. Your employer may sponsor community outreach that you can do during work hours. If your church has outreach auxiliary organizations, that's another great place to put in a little time each week. If you have kids, you're also probably spending time in their school regularly, and you can use that time already set aside to volunteer.
  • If you can't commit regular time to giving back, consider using your other resources to help your community. Pick up a few extra items grocery shopping each week to drop off at a food bank, or donate clothes you find on clearance to a homeless shelter. Although it may not feel as personal as giving time, organizations also desperately need your money to stay afloat. Writing a check each month, even if your contribution is small, is vital to maintaining services in your area.
The Payoff
  • Just because volunteer work is unpaid doesn't mean it comes without a payout. Aside from the physical and mental benefits to the giver, volunteerism creates a legacy for our families. As your kids see you engaged in community service, it will inspire them to find ways to give back.
  • Get the entire family involved in serving this year. Dog walking at an animal shelter, stocking shelves at a food bank or serving at a soup kitchen are excellent ways to spend time together and teach your children empathy at the same time. If you're looking for less formal opportunities, shovel snow or mow the grass for your neighbors, bring treats to a fire station, or babysit for a friend as a family. Ignore any protesting from your kids; they need the experience and the work ethic that comes from volunteering.
  • Making volunteerism a regular part of your new year is easier than you think. The hardest part is finding an opportunity and showing up the first time. After that, it will become part of your routine the same way you now spend your time working, running errands and eating. Commit this January to finding an organization that can use your talents. Someone out there needs what only you can give. It's up to you to find them.
Take the Jump in 2018
Make volunteering a reality this year. Many organizations have made it easier than ever to find opportunities and sign up online.

Visit to find out more about our volunteer opportunities.
There has never been a better time to commit to volunteering in the New Year.

Thanks to FamilyShare

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Resolving to volunteer in 2018!

If you are reviewing the laundry list of possible New Year’s resolutions, the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley has the 2018 resolution for you! It has significant benefits and won’t cost you any money. This year, resolve to volunteer at least 50 hours to strengthen our Cedar Valley community.

The Cedar Valley area is known for its giving spirit, which is why finding a place to volunteer in the New Year is not an overwhelming task. Local groups, organizations, nonprofits and service clubs can use your skills and resources.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley represents 160 nonprofit agencies which not only welcome volunteers but need them to fulfill their missions and budgets. The 2017 national value of one volunteer hour is $24.14 based on the 2016 analysis done by the Independent Sector. In Iowa, the average is $22.95.

Your resolution not only benefits the agency or nonprofit – it benefits you! 
Here are a few benefits:

  • Learn or develop a new skill – Volunteering is the perfect vehicle to discover something you are really good at and develop a new skill.
  • Be part of your community – What better way is there to connect with your community and give back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you. 
  • Motivation and sense of achievement – Volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely. 
  • Boost your career options – If you are thinking of a career change then volunteering is a perfect way to explore new fields.
  • New interests and hobbies – Finding new interests and hobbies through volunteering can be fun, relaxing and energizing.
  • New experiences – Volunteering is a wonderful way to get life experience.
  • Meeting a diverse range of people – Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Volunteering also offers an incredible networking opportunity.
  • Send a signal to your employer, teachers, friends, and family – Volunteering reflects and supports a complete picture of you, and gives real examples of your commitment, dedication and interests. Show people what you are passionate about and maybe you will inspire them too!
  • Health benefits – Studies have established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is happy to assist you in finding a perfect volunteer connection. Call 272-2087 or visit to learn about potential opportunities.

Monday, December 18, 2017

12 Ways to Pay It Forward During the Holiday Season

Donate toys. Donate a new, unopened toy to organizations such as Toys for Tots at KWWL TV. You can also take them to a local hospital or women’s shelter. Last year I brought a trunk full of toys to the Salvation Army for their Toy Shop!

Donate food. Give the gift of helping a family to have a hearty meal or two this holiday season by donating to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Also, keep in mind that food banks still have a need in the new year when supplies are more likely to be depleted.

Pay off someone’s layaway. This can be done at the store or many times even over the phone. Simply call a retailer who does layaway and ask the customer service department how you can help pay off someone’s layaway to make their post-holiday season a lot less stressful.

Donate your time. Do not underestimate the value of your time. Serve meals at a soup kitchen. Help veterans and others get to their destination for the holidays. Help people with disabilities wrap gifts for their loved ones. Help your neighbors put up their lights. You can also start by calling a local organization or two to find out their needs during the holiday season.

Sponsor A Needy Family. Contact EMBARC to help a refugee family become self-reliant. Project Connect connects adult refugee newcomers with native Iowan mentors with a focus on English tutoring and developing and achieving newcomer goals in the US.

Make a year-end charitable donation. Especially if you work for an organization that has a matching program. Let whatever amount that you can give get stretched further by your employer for an extra generous donation.

Purchase a gift that gives back. Think conscious consumerism and making purchases from brands that give back in some way, especially during the holiday season. You can choose from our gifts that give back holiday gift guide or select a gift of your choice. If you are not sure which companies are giving back, here is a list of Social Responsibility reports from well-known brands and retailers, so you can decide for yourself where to put your dollars.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Remembering to keep it environmentally-friendly during the holidays benefits the earth, your bills, and future generations. Though the holiday season seems to be a time of wild abundance, there is a definite place for simplicity amidst the chaos. It can still be festive too! One easy example is using your kids’ drawings and artwork to make adorable wrapping paper for gifts. Here are 100 more ideas.

Donate a tree. If you need a gift idea for the person who has everything, or if you want to honor someone special in your life now or someone who has passed, consider this one. Each dollar donated plants a tree in one of America’s national forests. For more information, go to

Give what you can. Even if it is just paying for someone’s coffee at the drive-thru, one little act of kindness can make a huge difference to someone else. That person whose coffee you just paid for might be having a terrible day. Or perhaps that person might just spread the kindness on to others. Before you know it, that one cup of coffee could start an ongoing chain. Isn’t it worth paying for that one cup of coffee to remind someone else that there is kindness in the world?

Remember those who are working on the holidays. Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders and the like are working shifts while you are enjoying Christmas dinner or watching your children open their presents. Perhaps you and your family can bring over some baked goods, books or even just a card to show your appreciation.

Spread cheer! Even if you cannot give monetarily. Even if you cannot give your time. Give what you can. Give a smile. Give a ‘thank you’. Give with your patience. Give with your heart.
Happy holidays!

Thanks to!

Monday, December 11, 2017

12 Days of Service!

These are simple service projects that can be done throughout the holiday season, in any order you wish, to spread the joy of giving and volunteering!

1st Secret Elf - Leave a special poem, a small gift, plant, or holiday story for a homebound neighbor, or someone in need.

2nd Caring Cookies - Make your favorite cookies for someone special in your life - a teacher, neighbor, relative or friend.

3rd Bird Extravaganza -Decorate a tree for the birds. Cover pinecones with peanut butter and dip them in birdseed. String popcorn and cranberries. Hang cut up apples and oranges on the tree.

4th Holiday Kits - Put together everything a child would need to make a present for a loved one. Contact a family or domestic abuse homeless shelter to distribute the kits.

5th Table Decorations - Make a centerpiece or placemats for a local senior center or deliver some to Meals on Wheels.

6th Caring Calendar -Interview an elderly neighbor or a relative and find out the important dates in their lives. Create a calendar with handmade pictures or photos and fill in special dates.

7th Hope Chest - Fill a shoebox with small gifts and a card for a homeless child or someone that will be spending the holidays in the hospital.

8th Kitty and Puppy Love -Bring cat and dog food, clean old towels and clean blankets to your local rescue shelter.

9th Soup to Share - Make a container of homemade soup and give to someone who is stressed or depressed so they know someone cares.

10th Deck the Halls -Decorate a shelter, senior center or homeless shelter. Find out which holiday they celebrate and decorate accordingly.

11th Fudge Delivery -Remember your garbage man, postal carrier, paper delivery person, etc. with some homemade fudge and a card.

12th Caring Family Meal - This can be for your own family, a relative, a neighbor or all of the above. Serve with love.

Contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley via email or 319-272-2087 for addition volunteer ideas!

Monday, December 4, 2017

You're Never Too Young to Give Back: Getting Kids to Volunteer

Even Kindergartners Can Experience the Good Feeling of Helping Others

Inspiring your little ones to give back to the community can take a little negotiation, but the result is well worth it. Volunteering teaches kids ownership and can boost confidence. And it's a great way to spend family time.

First and foremost, ask your kids where their interests lie. Little ones as young as four and five years old may surprise you with their suggestions. Encouraging them to contribute to the conversation gives them a sense of pride and belonging.

Generate a list of potential volunteer opportunities and then narrow them down as a family. If you're stuck on where to give back, here are a few suggestions:
·     Toy and clothing drive. This volunteer opportunity lets you and your neighbors get rid of some clutter while a child in need gets a gently used toy or item of clothing. It may take a little convincing to get your kids to give up their things, so start by asking them to part with just one item they don't use any more.
·     Foodbank or soup kitchen. Gather canned and boxed food from neighbors for your local food bank, or volunteer to serve a meal at a nearby soup kitchen or church. Both activities are great ways for your family to get out and meet new people while volunteering.
·     Senior citizen center. Who doesn't love playing a board game? Older children can put their Monopoly or chess skills to work. They may even learn a trick or two from the older adults.
·     Library. Teens can volunteer to tutor or read books to younger children. This is a great confidence builder and helps foster something every child could use a bit more of, Patience.
·     Community garden. In spring and summer, this is a fantastic way to get kids off the couch and outside. It's a task that even little ones can participate in. As a bonus, they have an excuse to get their hands dirty.
·     Organize something at school. Stewardship doesn't just have to be in the home. Encourage your child to get the whole class or even the whole school involved in giving back. Activities like a coat drive, mitten tree or even a penny drive for a local charity are simple, effective ways kids can contribute as a part of a larger group.

As youth mature into their teens, so does their interest in volunteerism. Many of the nation’s volunteers are young people. More than half (55 percent) of teenagers in the United States report that they participate in volunteer activities; the teen volunteering rate is nearly twice the adult volunteering rate with 1.3 billion hours of community service each year. Most youth volunteers do so out of selflessness and an interest in making a difference in the lives of others. Only five percent of students reportedly volunteered because of a school requirement.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, youth who volunteer are more likely to feel connected to their communities, do better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior. Empowerment helps youth believe they can make a difference, in addition to an increase in self-worth, identity, moral and ethical values. Volunteering promotes citizenship as youth obtain increased community awareness. Academic skills improve with youth recognizing an increased relevance of subject, developing critical thinking skills. In addition, youth develop more positive work orientation attitudes and skills are 19 percent more likely to graduate from college than those who did not.

Remember, kids, learn by example. If you want them to be good citizens, be one yourself.