The Joy Of Giving

With the end of the year just days away and the holiday season upon us, we have time to reflect on what we have and be grateful. Below is a list of some local volunteer opportunities to help others in the Columbia community and to continue the spirit of giving in 2010.

Heart of Missouri United Way


“Heart of Missouri United Way works to advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health programs in its seven-county service area,” says Director of Marketing and Communications Lindsey Testerman.

One of HMUW’s initiatives supports United Way 2-1-1, a free resource hotline across Missouri. This hotline connects callers to someone who can assist them in choosing where their volunteering might be needed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Information is not only for Columbia and the greater Boone County but also includes volunteer opportunities nationwide. The 2-1-1 hotline also provides information about local services such as food banks in the community, legal help to victims of domestic violence, and much more.

Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging


The CMAAA provides assistance to older members of mid-Missouri communities as well as their caregivers. From home delivery of meals to care coordination, this organization assists people so that they can continue to live as independently as possible. Currently, the greatest need for local volunteers is for the Long-term Care Ombudsman program. Beth Simpson, director of this program, says, “Volunteers are trained to go into nursing homes where they visit each week for two to four hours. Volunteers become trusted friends who take concerns to the administration, with permission from the residents.” Training is required and also provided by CMAAA.

“It’s a special kind of volunteering,” Simpson adds, “and we certainly need people in Columbia.”

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Missouri


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri finds mentors — or “Bigs” — for children from single-parent homes or those who live in foster homes. Being a mentor involves being a friend or a role model to a “Little.” Volunteers are needed in both the community program and the school-based program. Both are commitments of a few hours each week, but Mary Sloan, community relations director suggests volunteer time can be integrated into volunteers’ daily lives. The community program involves meeting with a child two to four times each month and taking them along to the grocery store or the park. In the school-based program, mentors meet with the same child at the same time each week at school and are guided by the child’s teacher.

“All of the Bigs say they get more out of it than the Littles do,” Sloan says, “because it’s such fun for them.” Bigs of all ages are welcome, but they must be at least 18 years old.

Missouri River Relief


Do you like working out in nature or want an opportunity to spend some time along a river while making a difference? Missouri River Relief coordinates river cleanups and tree plantings along the Missouri River. Check out the Web site for opportunities, both locally and anywhere from South Dakota to St. Louis. On March 6, there will be an Osage River cleanup east of Jefferson City.

Steve Schnarr, Lower Reach manager says working with River Relief is “a unique way to get involved in improving the Missouri River. Most people don’t get a chance to get out on the river. This is a great way to get introduced to it, do some hard work, and see beautiful places.”

Columbia Second Chance


“One of the best things about volunteering for Columbia Second Chance is you help save dogs and cats who might otherwise be put to sleep, and you also get to make friends with other animal lovers,” says Laura Brenner, board member of Columbia Second Chance, a no-kill animal shelter. Volunteers are needed at Second Chance to care for the animals directly.

“We especially need creative people who can help with fundraising, thinking up new adoption events and helping us get the word out about our mission and the animals we are trying to find homes for,” Brenner adds.

City of Columbia Volunteer Program


The City of Columbia Volunteer Program has several opportunities for community members to give back and have fun. The city’s Web site asks people to come out for several events and ongoing projects throughout the year. Debra Hardin, program assistant, says the greatest December need for volunteers is for the annual New Year’s Eve First Night event. Before or after volunteering for a few hours as a children’s art assistant, as an usher or as an ambassador, volunteers gain free entry to the rest of the events.

“Come in to volunteer and spend the rest of the night having fun!” Hardin says.

State Historical Society of Missouri


If you’re a history buff, heading to the State Historical Society might be a good volunteer option. The mission of the State Historical Society of Missouri is to collect, preserve, make accessible and publish the history of Missouri.

“Some of the projects that we have volunteers working on are processing current and historic newspapers, data entry, and assisting society staff members with research,” says reference specialist Seth Smith. “One of the things that makes it so fun is volunteers get to experience the state’s history firsthand and work with priceless historic newspapers and documents.”

Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity

1906 Monroe St.

Mid-Missouri’s Habitat for Humanity builds homes for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a house of their own. “Habitat for Humanity is a voluntary organization,” says Executive Director Bill View. “Our mission is based on the principles of Jesus Christ.”

Volunteers get involved in all aspects of construction and are essential to the functions of the organization. “We build homes for God’s people in need and we think everybody should be able to live in a decent affordable home,” View says. “Without the volunteers, that’s not possible.”

Missouri Museum of Art and Archeology


Do you enjoy hanging out in museums? This might be the place to volunteer! Assistant Director Bruce T. Cox says, “We always welcome volunteers to the Museum of Art and Archaeology family. They are the heart’s blood of our community outreach. Without them, we would not be able to conduct the ever-increasing number of tours for schoolchildren, university/college students, visiting groups and adult life-long learners.”

Docent training is necessary (but free). “Being a docent is an opportunity to share knowledge, dialogue with visitors and experience the artwork in new ways,” Cox says.

The Intersection


The Intersection is a place where children can spend their nonschool time in a safe and educational environment. Dana Battison, executive director, says that there is a strong need for volunteers during the holiday season.

“Many volunteers are college students and don’t come back until late January,” Battison says. Volunteers do everything from helping a child with homework to working on science or art projects with them. Volunteers also help produce and provide meals to 40 children every day.

“You get to know kids, hang out and be a positive mentor,” Battison says.