choosing volunteer opportunities

I’ve been thinking a lot about volunteering, but so far I haven’t taken any action that isn’t merely exploratory.  I need to get on this, because I will procrastinate, and I don’t want to not have something in the works when my busy semester begins.  A few weeks ago Ryan and I went on a mini-search throughout town and in the foyer of the Lawrence Public Library found some helpful information regarding local volunteer opportunities.  We found out about the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center, which happens to be right down the street from us and has a useful web presence at volunteerdouglascounty.org.  If you visit the site and click on ‘Find a Volunteer Opportunity’ on the menu at the bottom of the main page, it leads you to a searchable database where you can filter based on location, type of opportunity, etc.  There are tons of opportunities available—you can be a dog walker or a ‘cat companion’ for the Lawrence Humane Society, help with data entry at the food bank (Just Food), read the newspaper at the retirement community; there’s so much that I’m having trouble narrowing down what I really want to do.  I’ve got to find stuff that works with my schedule, obviously, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue yet.  So far I’m especially interested in volunteering for 4-H and the Douglas County AIDS Project; I think I’m going to apply to both of those, and if one or both turn me down I’ll find some backups.  I am actually sort of terrified about getting turned away from volunteer opportunities because I don’t have much experience volunteering.  I’ll keep the blog updated on my progress through the application/interview process.

The volunteering part of this project is such a big deal to me because it actually figures into my dissertation in a way.  I’m really excited about being able to give my time to a cause I’m interested in—but at the same time, I need to acknowledge my weaknesses and make sure I don’t take on anything I can’t handle emotionally, because I need to be useful and effective.  I can’t, for example, work with small children, but I’m pretty good with older kids.  I don’t think I could handle any of the humane society gigs —although the cat companion opportunity sounds like fun—I get attached to animals too easily.  I don’t know how I’d do working with mentally-challenged individuals.  Senior citizens?  Not sure, but I think I could hack it.  I really want volunteering to be fun and not feel like a chore, and I also want my talents and skills to be put to good use, so I’m keen on finding the right opportunity.

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