posted by: Darby Wiekrykas, Volunter Engagement Program Manager
As United Way of Berks County’s Volunteer Engagement Program Manager, I’m inspired daily by the desire of Berks Countians to make a difference in our community. Many times, people want to get involved, but they don’t know where to begin. Below is a list of the top questions I receive about volunteering.
I want to help with a specific cause, but don’t know where to start
This is a question I hear often. The best piece of advice I can share is to think of what you’re passionate about, then visit United Way’s volunteer website. The website provides over 100 opportunities that can be searched by interest. If you’re interested in volunteering with a particular agency that doesn’t have opportunities listed on our site, I suggest visiting the agency’s website to search for opportunities there.
There are also times where groups and individuals are looking for a specific opportunity within a specific cause. With situations like these I usually work with them directly in order to ensure we find them the perfect opportunity.
How can I get my children involved in volunteering opportunities?
There are a lot of agencies that welcome volunteers ages 10 and up, if accompanied by a parent or other adult. Always contact the agency first to check if children are welcome to participate.
I also receive questions regarding opportunities for younger children. My suggestion is to organize a collection drive and encourage the children to donate their own personal items. This helps young children understand the impact and the importance of helping others. Kids can donate their toys, books, clothes, and even their gently used coats to local agencies. A great resource for this is our Wish List page. Nearly 40 local agencies have provided lists on our website.
I want to get involved in the community, but I don’t have a very flexible schedule
Limited schedules are often easy to work around. If there is an agency you would like to volunteer for, contact them and explain your situation. Agencies are grateful for assistance. Many have events and special opportunities they may need additional volunteers for.
I also encourage individuals ages 21-45 to get involved with United Way’s affinity group, Emerging Leaders United (ELU). ELU offers a wide variety of diverse volunteer activities throughout the year and at different times of the day. In 2019 alone, ELU offered their 400+ members almost 40 volunteer opportunities. To learn more about ELU please contact Shirley Chapin at Shirleyc@uwberks.org.
I want to volunteer during the holidays or summer vacation. Where do I start?
United Way’s Holiday Volunteer Guide and Youth Summer Volunteer Guide are great resources for finding opportunities at special times of the year. The guides provide various opportunities to partner with local United Way Agency Partners and local organizations, as well.
Collection drives are also a great opportunity to do something special for a local organization, no matter what time of year.