Volunteer Opportunities in Pittsburgh: A Great Way to Get To Know Your Community

Volunteer Opportunities in Pittsburgh

Do you love where you live? Do you want to make it even better, or get to know it on a deeper level? Volunteering is a great way to take what you have in excess – time, energy, skills – and share it with your community. Many charitable organizations operate on small budgets and rely on legions of dedicated supporters sharing their time and energy to make things happen. Volunteering can also be a great way to meet other goals you have: giving back, networking, or increasing your physical activity – among others.

It can seem overwhelming at first to know how to get started. There are so many different ways to share your gifts. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider where to volunteer in Pittsburgh.

Volunteering Offers Many Benefits

There are many benefits to volunteering. At its core, volunteering means helping others. You have something they need, and you’re sharing the surplus. It feels good to know you’re in a position to help others, and using what you have to offer. Because of volunteers, organizations are able to meet the needs of the audiences they serve in a much bigger way than if they were relying only on their paid staff.

How To Get Started Volunteering in Pittsburgh

That being said, it can seem daunting to get started because there are so many ways to approach volunteering. There are a couple of ways to go about it. The first step is to consider what you have in excess. Time, energy, skills like teaching? Think about what impact you want to make. Do you want to do something that will have a small impact on many people, or a bigger impact on a few people? Finally, take stock of how much time you have to spend. What phase of life are you in? Do you want to develop a long-term relationship with an organization, or spread your efforts out over a larger number of smaller activities?

Make a list of what’s most important to you: keeping our rivers great places to spend time, fostering the growth of trees and green space, or promoting literacy and building a stronger regional workforce, just to name some examples. Having your priorities clear will help you make a choice.

How To Find the Right Place To Volunteer in Pittsburgh

Think about your skills and also what you need more of in your life. For example, maybe your job is mostly sedentary. Finding some work you can do outside might be a great way to add some physical activity to your days. Whether you want to build a long-term relationship somewhere, or help out on the fly when you find a couple of free hours in your schedule, there are many ways to get involved.

Where To Volunteer in Pittsburgh

Here is a list of some organizations in the Greater Pittsburgh area which regularly offer opportunities to volunteer.

412 Food Rescue - Have you ever been to an event where food was served, and there was a large surplus at the end? This organization matches up surplus with need, thanks to a legion of “food rescue heroes” – people just like you – who use their transportation to move the food to where it can be used. This is a great way to serve an immediate need in a low-commitment format, whenever you have a spare hour or two. Since some of the opportunities are one-offs, while others are recurring, you could even find a route that matches your commute, making you feel better about that time spent in traffic.

Allegheny Cleanways - If you’re someone who enjoys spending time on our rivers, why not make them safer, and free of pollution and debris? This organization aims to make our waterways cleaner, with group cleanups regularly scheduled on land dumpsites, and on the riverfronts. In addition to beautifying the area, you’re increasing the health of the waterway, and all the life that depends on it.

Tree Pittsburgh - This organization works to plant and take care of the city’s trees. If you live in the city limits, you can even request a free tree to be planted on your property. Volunteer opportunities include planting and tending these trees, or you could also help baby trees get strong in the tree nursery, by weeding to foster their healthy growth.

Global Links - This organization, located in Greentree, matches up surplus medical supplies with those in need around the world. In an area like ours, with large health institutions, this might occur when, for example, a new supplier for a type of material is found, and the old materials must be discarded, while still being perfectly functional. It’s possible to form an ongoing relationship here, signing up for the same shift weekly each month, or sign up for a shift at a time, as your schedule permits.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank - This organization is well-established, meeting the needs of hungry Pittsburghers since 1980. There are even opportunities for families to volunteer together, so that youths can learn early the importance of community service.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy - Pittsburgh’s parks are used in countless ways – a space for nature to thrive, for people and pets to enjoy the outdoors, for parties and celebrations, and even large special events like the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Volunteering at the parks is a way to ensure that they stay well-maintained and accessible to all. You may even learn about the region’s flora and fauna, and see things you don’t see every day, like nesting owls.

Literacy Pittsburgh - This organization offers free education to adults working to improve their literacy skills, ensuring a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Tips to Volunteering in Pittsburgh

There’s power in numbers. The impact one person makes is multiplied when joined by a few friends. Assemble a group to have a bigger positive effect. It could be a special way to celebrate a birthday or work milestone. You could reach out to a high school or scouting troop to get extra hands, speeding the progress of an initiative. Several area corporations also offer their employees a number of hours each year to use for volunteering, which is a great way to fit volunteering into busy lives. If you’re one of them, don’t let those hours go to waste!

Remember that the list above is only the tip of a large iceberg. For more ideas, think about places in the community that you frequent, like a school, place of worship, or cultural institution. Are there maintenance projects that have been on the back burner until the necessary resources have been assembled?

  • Is there a scruffy, neglected green space in your neighborhood? You could gather up some friends to remove the overgrowth and plant new trees, flowers or ornamentals that will help show off what’s great about where you live. A cleaned-up green space will help increase the property values of all the area around it, making it easier to gain donations and support for such a project.
  • You could collect litter in your neighborhood, starting with local Facebook or Meetup groups to see if such initiatives already exist, and starting one if not.
  • You could organize a neighborhood yard sale or seasonal celebration like a Halloween parade. Organizing or volunteering at an existing house tour is also a great way to learn about or spread the word about your neighborhood. You can even get new ideas for the design of your house and yard by serving as a docent on such a tour – now that’s multi-tasking!

In addition to making your community more vibrant, this is a great way to meet new neighbors, who may become friends or professional contacts. It’s a great excuse to learn more about a place you’ve been meaning to explore, in a hands-on way. You can also gain important resume-building credentials, and references, when you invest a significant effort somewhere and become a trusted, dependable supporter.

Ready to get started? Try a low-commitment shift at a couple of different organizations to figure out which feel like the right fit for you and your strengths. When it feels right, you may choose to invest more substantially in one organization. When you find the right match for your skills and the community’s needs, you’re on the path to creating a relationship that will blossom for seasons to come, and bear many fruits.

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