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It’s never the wrong time to volunteer in California and devote your time to a good cause. Making a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis, volunteer programs provide you with the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences while also giving back to the community. The gratifying work broadens your goals and ambitions in life—the feeling of fulfillment is rewarding.
Whether it’s volunteering at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, retirement home, or local library, every single second is spent learning and being inspired by the people around you. Check out these incredible organizations today and become a volunteer in California.
Location: Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland
There’s not a person in the world who hasn’t heard of the Peace Corps. Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has a regional office in Oakland for California volunteers.
The Peace Corps volunteer program sends participants to work with governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs around the world. The sectors include education, youth development, community health, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment.
Once you fill out an application and get accepted, you'll be trained for three months in order to work abroad for a period of two years.
Location: 2254 San Diego Avenue, Suite 200, San Diego
Meals on Wheels America is a leadership organization that supports over 5,000 community-based programs across the U.S. Dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger, the organization takes care of delivering nutritious meals and paying friendly visits to senior citizens at home who are unable to purchase food or prepare their own food.
Meals on Wheels focuses on the social, physical, nutritional, and economic improvement of vulnerable Americans. The organization’s home-delivered meals significantly improve recipients’ quality of life. With the aim of leaving no one hungry or isolated, the volunteer program envisions an America in which all seniors live nourished lives with independence and dignity.
Meals on Wheels volunteers spread love and joy thanks to their work—they also lend a helping hand to local communities during the pandemic. Become a Meals on Wheels volunteer in California’s San Diego County upon submitting an application.
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Location: 1444 9th Street, Santa Monica
Looking to protect the coastal waters and watersheds of SoCal? Heal the Bay is your go-to volunteer program. Centered on Santa Monica Bay, the environmental nonprofit utilizes science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill its mission.
Offering five of the best volunteer programs out there, Heal the Bay gives participants the opportunity to build professional and personal skills—just by joining a dedicated community that actively engages in local environmental issues. For example, aquarium volunteers interpret touch tanks, support animal operations, and facilitate field trips; meanwhile, Beach Captain volunteers support beach cleanups that occur every third Saturday of the month.
Having empowered over 10,000 volunteers, Heal the Bay has helped the environment and improved local communities by advocating for safe, healthy, and clean water through education, interpretation, science, and more.
Location: 1100 Shasta Avenue Suite 110, San Jose
A nonprofit dedicated to ending the cycle of youth homelessness, StandUp for Kids cares for unhoused and at-risk youths by transitioning them from crisis to connection. Established in 1990, the organization strives to build communities where youths have a support system; it gives young people a sense of safety, hope, and belonging by offering them housing support, mentoring, drop-in centers, and street outreach.
Almost completely run by volunteers, StandUp for Kids aims to lead unhoused youths to self-sufficiency, and of course, a stable life off the streets. To help achieve its mission, the nonprofit provides education support, job training, and life-skills programs. The organization’s volunteer program is extremely rewarding—it gives you the opportunity to work with youths and make a difference in their lives. Before you begin, you’ll receive eight hours of classroom and online training so you can have an impact effectively and safely.
Location: 3150 North San Fernando Road, Suite B, Los Angeles
With volunteer tutoring being the key element of its program, Schools on Wheels enhances educational opportunities for children who are experiencing homelessness from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Training volunteers and matching them with students, the nonprofit provides free one-on-one weekly tutoring and mentoring, school supplies, assistance in entering school, and scholarships.
With over 400 sites across SoCal—including libraries, shelters, and after-school programs—Schools of Wheels’ volunteer program serves as a consistent support system for students during a time of great stress and fear. Volunteers in California are needed to help shrink the learning gap and remove the barriers that stand between students and their education.
Location: 570 West Avenue 26, Suite 400, Los Angeles
Founded in 1991, L.A. Works is a nonprofit volunteer center focused on the creation and implementation of hands-on community service projects. Striving to empower people by addressing pressing social issues, the Los Angeles volunteer center achieves its goal through volunteerism and community collaborations.
Throughout its history, L.A. Works has led volunteers in California to contribute over a million hours of their time. This includes serving meals, preparing food provisions, providing educational and enrichment activities, and revitalizing schools and parks. With over 90 monthly projects covering a wide range of activities, the organization’s volunteer programs make a significant and lasting contribution to Los Angeles. Volunteering here is easy, fun, and most importantly, meaningful.
Location: 517 West Struck Avenue, Orange
Providing food and compassionate care for the less fortunate of Orange County, Mary’s Kitchen is a great organization to help, especially if you’re looking to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Founder Mary McAnena became inspired to give back to the local community after her rewarding experience helping an unhoused woman in Hart Park.
Powered by hard-working volunteers who deeply care, the organization aims to make a difference by feeding an average of 200 people daily. Volunteers in this California soup kitchen serve meals and handle the cleanup. Mary’s Kitchen also provides services that support and enhance the quality of life for the hungry and unhoused, so see how you can help this nonprofit today.
For more on volunteering, check out scenes from The Skid Row Carnival Of Love—a one-day event that helps nearly 5,000 unhoused people every January.
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