OK, so you've got some extra time on your hands. You could A) Throw yourself a pity party and do some comfort eating; B) Set out on a quest to fully explore Boise's bar scene; C) Construct a giant papier mache duck on your patio or D) Actually do something useful that benefits others.
The Treasure Valley is full of organizations that play important roles in the community and that could use a little extra help. And as budgets are cut thanks to the economic downturn, the need for volunteers to step up is even greater. From arts organizations that need help caring for their patrons to government agencies that need a hand maintaining public parks to nonprofits that build affordable housing, there's a wide variety of needs that need to be met by a wide variety of people.
As part of our effort to help out, Boise Weekly is reviving our Volunteer Guide, offering some direction for individuals or groups that want to get involved in the community. Below is a list of organizations that routinely work with volunteers, so peruse the options, find something of interest and get off your butt.
Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS is the driving force behind the push for more education about HIV and AIDS, as well other sexually transmitted diseases, in the Treasure Valley. But in order for the group to do everything it can, volunteers are needed to do a little bit of everything and anything, from office work to staffing outreach events. New volunteer orientation is held every other Thursday.
Contact: Kavin Dehner, email@example.com
Boise Art Museum
Beauty takes work, and that includes the kind that fills Boise Art Museum. It takes a small army of volunteers to keep the public art museum open and able to share fine art with the masses. Volunteers greet patrons, take admission, work the museum store and provide information. They also work in the administrative office and help with programs.
The museum's largest fundraiser of the year, Art in the Park, requires hundreds of volunteers to help with every aspect of the event, from setting up to final accounting. Check BAM's website and request a volunteer application for all positions.
Contact: Visitors' Services, Shauna, Ext. 34, firstname.lastname@example.org; Office, Brenda, Ext. 10, email@example.com; Education, Drew, Ext. 36, firstname.lastname@example.org; Art in the Park, Jeni, Ext. 14, email@example.com
Boise Bicycle Project
Boise is a bike-friendly sort of place, and few organizations are more instrumental in fostering that kind of environment than the Boise Bicycle Project. This community-driven group works to make sure everyone has access to a bike, regardless of income or background.
BBP volunteers help fix up donated bikes, teach others how to take care of their own bikes, lead programs to help kids learn safe biking, assist during community bike drives and help out at numerous events throughout the year. Volunteers just need to have a love of bikes and, more importantly, the community.
Contact: Jimmy Hallyburton, firstname.lastname@example.org
This online volunteer center serves as a clearinghouse for local groups who need volunteers, matching them with individuals who want to help in the community. The group recently opened a volunteer center at 1020 W. Main St. in Boise to further the effort.
Boise Rec Fest
With one successful year under its belt, the Boise Rec Fest is gearing up for an even bigger celebration of everything outdoors. Once again, the weekend festival will take over Ann Morrison Park June 25-26, with booths, activities, lectures, games, music and food for all.
Volunteers are needed to help with about every aspect of the event, from working the information and merchandise booths to providing security to running concessions, managing the entertainment, helping exhibitors and running recreational events. Check out the Rec Fest website and click on the "volunteer" button to register.
Boise River Volunteers
It's easy to take a resource like the Boise River for granted--it's always there for us to enjoy, to float, to fish. But without a little consideration, the river can suffer from being loved a little too much. The Boise River Volunteers have taken up the mantle to keep the river clean during the busy summer floating season by conducting weekly clean-up floats to pick up trash and other things left in or near the river--they even help a stranded boater or two on occasion. Anyone interested in joining the effort can contact the group via its website and click on the contact link.
Contact: Chris Crawford
The term "waste water treatment" doesn't necessarily conjure happy visions, but the situation is a bit different at Boise's WaterShed. It's about more than waste water at the educational center, where the public can learn about conservation.
The WaterShed staff is looking for volunteers to join the Green Teen Program--a summer program with indoor and outdoor projects throughout the season. Adult and college-aged volunteers are also needed to help with the numerous group field trips that take advantage of the interactive programs at WaterShed.
Contact: Cindy Busche, email@example.com
Boys and Girls Club
The three Boys and Girls clubs in Ada County offer a positive and fun place where kids of all ages spend time hanging out, participating in activities, playing sports or games, or working with staff.
Volunteers are needed to help the nonprofit forward its mission by working directly with the kids and helping staff members. Volunteers are often called upon to help lead field trips, assist with lunch and snack times, and give a little one-on-one time to club members who need some attention.
Volunteer orientation is held every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Garden City location, but contact each club to find out its specific needs and schedule. Volunteers can get an application form on the website.
Phone: Volunteer Coordinator, 208-639-3170; Garden City club, 208-321-9157; Meridian club, 208-888-5392
City of Boise Parks and Recreation
With budgets for city departments getting ever tighter, departments like Parks and Recreation are in more need of volunteers than ever before. Last year alone, 62,000 hours of volunteer labor was donated, doing the work of 26 full-time employees.
The majority of the work at Parks and Rec is physical labor, doing projects at the numerous parks and public areas ranging from weeding and painting to building picnic tables and planting trees.
The department hosts several major projects each year, including clean-ups of the Boise River and the Foothills and the relatively new Rake Our Parks event.
Volunteers are always needed to help with youth programs at the city's neighborhood centers, as well as with the Adventure Program, which helps disabled youth get involved in outdoor recreation.
Check the website for specific volunteer opportunities.
Contact: Jerry Pugh, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Community Center
The Community Center is Idaho's only facility that focuses on LGBT issues. Volunteers are needed to help staff the center, work on Diversity News, an LGBT-focused newspaper, sell ads for the newspaper, maintain the center's database and assist with various office duties. Volunteer orientation is from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
Contact: Rick Ramos, email@example.com
Eagle Bike Park
The foothills bordering Eagle are becoming a growing bastion for mountain bikers who cruise the variety of trails zigzagging the area. But those trails are the result of a lot of volunteer hours spent building and repairing. As those trails continue to grow, more volunteers are needed to roll up their sleeves and do some physical labor. To get on the volunteer list, email Nelson and check out the website.
Contact: Brad Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org
This nonprofit organization stands firmly in the corner of at-risk families in the Treasure Valley, with a focus on foster children. The organization is always in need of help, but particularly for people willing to work as Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA program volunteers represent the interests of foster children in all court cases, trying to ensure that the needs of the children take the forefront. A legal background is not required but a significant time commitment is: Volunteers must undergo a 12-hour training course, then dedicate at least 10 hours a month to the work, which includes meeting with the children, doing background research and making official recommendations to the court.
If you don't have quite enough time, the organization always needs help with basic office duties as well.
All volunteers must undergo a background check and fingerprinting, which costs $30. Anyone interested in helping out must start by filling out a volunteer application form, available on the website.
Contact: Megan Bates, email@example.com
Foothills Learning Center
The Foothills Learning Center is all about celebrating not just the Boise Foothills but the environment as a whole. The center hosts numerous programs and classes throughout the year aimed at getting people in touch with the natural world.
Volunteers of all ages are needed to help with a broad range of the center's programing, doing everything from working on the newsletter, to helping with special educational events, teaching programs and even weeding the native plant garden. Log on to the website to download a volunteer application.
Contact: Kristin Lundstrom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Giraffe LaughEarly Learning Centers
In the mood to work with or for kids? Giraffe Laugh is looking for volunteers to help with everything from rocking babies to organizing some of the group's largest fund-raising events. The center is a nonprofit that provides childcare regardless of a family's ability to pay. It also works with the Marian Pritchett School, allowing young mothers to continue their education while their children are cared for. The group also needs volunteers to do various tasks around the center, including reading to children and transporting materials between sites.
Contact: Amber Murray, email@example.com
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is busy keeping roofs over peoples' heads--literally--and the nonprofit's services are even more in demand now. Volunteers are the backbone of the organization dedicated to providing affordable housing to families who both need it and are willing to help work for it.
Volunteers do everything from working on construction sites to helping in the ReStore, where donated construction materials are sold to the public. The pair of options offer opportunities for those in search of some physical labor, as well as those who appreciate air conditioning and indoor plumbing.
Contact: Construction, Sarah Waltman; Habitat ReStore, Jeff Phelps or Alison Beck Haas
Phone: Construction, 208-331-2916, Ext. 315 (Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.); ReStore, 208-375-5256 (Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Idaho Botanical Garden
Over the years, Idaho Botanical Garden has become a hub of the community, not only offering astounding beauty but also as a location for a full schedule of events, from concerts to educational classes.
Volunteers are needed to do a variety of tasks, from getting their hands dirty taking care of plants to helping staff the numerous public events and gatherings. Volunteers staff the plethora of concerts that fill the garden each summer, including the garden concert series on Thursday evenings and the Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series. Volunteers also serve as guides for garden visitors.
Volunteers must start by filling out an application, which is used to match interests and schedules to jobs. Applications are available at the garden office.
Contact: Karen Christeson, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the economy tanked, more people found themselves in need of even the most basic things in life. The Idaho Foodbank is there to help feed the hungry, but the nonprofit is always in need of help itself, particularly in sorting food donations and repackaging them. Help is also needed in the warehouse. There are also volunteer opportunities for groups and families, depending on the project, and foodbank staff is willing to help organizations put on their own food donation drives.
This year, the foodbank will also be looking for people to help with the Picnic in the Park summer program, although details are still being worked out.
Contact: Cathe Scott, email@example.com
Idaho Historical Society
History is alive and breathing in the Treasure Valley, and the Idaho Historical Society is always looking for history lovers to help at any of the numerous facilities around the area.
Volunteers can lead tours of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, help with collections at the historical museum, or work in the native garden in the Pioneer Village area of the museum. Those who prefer their history bound can work at the historical library and archives collection. Check the website for a volunteer application.
Phone: Idaho State Historical Museum, 208-334-2120; Idaho Historical Society, 208-334-2682; Old Idaho Penitentiary, 208-334-2844
Idaho Humane Society
As people have lost their homes, so too have animals. The Idaho Humane Society is often the last stop for animals that need new homes, and the nonprofit organization is being stretched thinner this year as it works to meet growing demands.
Volunteers are needed to help in a wide variety of ways, from walking, bathing and grooming dogs, to playing with the cats. Volunteers are also needed to serve as adoption assistants, answering questions and helping to match people with prospective pets.
If you're willing to do a little digging, people are also needed to help maintain the grounds of the facility, making sure the animals have as nice of a home as possible until they are adopted. Visit the website to fill out a volunteer application before signing up for an orientation.
Contact: Melanie Larson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Idaho Shakespeare Festival is always one of the biggest summer artist draws in the area, but it takes more than some good lighting and a working knowledge of iambic pentameter to pull off a full season of outdoor productions.
While the capable staff is working hard, volunteers are busy getting audiences into the amphitheater by taking tickets, handing out programs, ushering and picking up trash at intermission and after the performance. The bonus is that when they're not working, volunteers get to catch the show for free.
While the majority of volunteer slots for the summer are already filled by groups that jumped at the chance, there are always a few people who can't make it. That's why those interested can sign up on the emergency waiting list to fill in at the last minute.
Contact: Chandra Woodward, email@example.com
Idaho State Capitol Tours
History buffs can get in on the action as a volunteer tour guide at the recently restored and expanded Idaho State Capitol. Volunteers are needed to lead hour-long tours--don't worry, training and a script are included.
Contact: Robyn Lockett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Boise's Interfaith Sanctuary is a welcome respite for the area's homeless population. As demand has grown in recent years, so too has the need for volunteers to help the nonprofit organization function.
Volunteers do a wide variety of duties, but are especially needed to fill nightly shifts to check in people staying at the shelter, getting them settled and serving food. They are also needed to help clean in the morning, as well as to help organize activities, programs and group volunteer efforts.
A volunteer application is available on the website. After submission, staff will contact potential volunteers.
Jordan Street Garden
A number of community gardens have sprung up in recent years as an effort to foster community and promote healthy living and the Jordan Street Garden is no exception. The garden is an urban refugee garden with the additional goal of revitalizing the Veteran's Park neighborhood. Volunteers are needed to get their hands dirty by working in the garden or helping organize donations of tools and materials. All ages are welcome.
Contact: Shana Foster Moore, email@example.com
Peace Out Camp
Peace Out Camp is a short camp focused on teaching high school and college students non-violent/non-conflict ways of resolving disputes, as well as lessons in positive peer pressure and anti-bullying work.
Camp organizers are looking for a few good volunteers with specific skill sets to work at the camp, June 13-16 in Boise. Those skill sets include individuals to teach classes in yoga, akido and capoeira, as well as someone to lead a workshop on peer/bystander influence. If you're more the artsy type, the camp also needs help with a tie-dying/journaling project.
Contact: Becky McGavin, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the people, by the people could well be the motto of the public library system. All those books, videos, computers and public programs require some serious manpower, and budgets require some big-time volunteer hours. Public libraries across the valley need people to help prepare and shelve books, prepare donations for annual book sales, organize public events and help with summer reading programs.
The Boise Public Library has even more need for volunteers thanks to the addition of branch libraries across the city. The library bases its volunteer effort around its website, which posts various volunteer opportunities as they become available. Would-be volunteers are asked to fill out an online form and be ready to undergo a background check (this is a city position, after all).
Volunteers are also needed with Friends of the Boise Library, which puts on used book sale fundraisers for the library and runs the book store.
Phone: Boise, 208-384-4076; Garden City, 208-472-2941; Friends of the Boise Library, 208-384-4198
Ridge to Rivers
Volunteer opportunities with Ridge to Rivers--which manages the expansive trail system in the Boise Foothills--are popular to say the least. In fact, there's a waiting list for those who want to help maintain and expand one of Boise's most popular attractions. Opportunities to work on the trails are project dependent but usually involve trail construction. Watch the website for new projects.
Contact: David Gordon, email@example.com
Stage Coach Theatre
The actors may get all the glory, but it takes an army to mount any successful theatrical production. Stage Coach Theater--one of Boise's longest-running community theater companies--is looking for some front of the house help. Volunteers are always needed to help with the customer-service side of the arts by selling concessions, cleaning, stocking supplies, ushering, taking tickets and other assorted duties. Ages 12 and older are welcome (as long as minors are accompanied by an adult).
Contact: Rich Nesbit, firstname.lastname@example.org
United Way of Idaho
OK, so you want to volunteer somewhere, doing something, but you're really not sure where or what. It's not an uncommon quandary for the crew at United Way of Idaho. The organization works with a variety of organizations across the Treasure Valley to match volunteers with groups. It also hosts numerous groups of its own, offering ways for people to get involved in the community with various levels of commitment.
United Way has partner organizations involved in education, youth, health and finances, and it serves as a clearinghouse for volunteer work. It works with individuals, as well as sets up larger projects for groups, companies and even schools. Check online to fill out a user profile and get started.
United Way also facilitates several service groups. The Junior Service Club is for junior high school students and offers a hands-on, year-long project that is driven by the students. High school students can join One Stone, a similar group that has numerous projects.
Working professionals with limited time can join DIRT, a group that meets to do one-hour projects over the noon hour. Projects nearly always are physical, giving those usually tied to a desk a way to blow off some energy.
Adults who want to get more involved can join LEAP, which is more focused on specific issues and works to engage more in the community.
United Way is also starting a new community garden on the Boise Bench next to its headquarters. Details are still being worked out, but volunteers will be needed to work in the garden.
Contact: Neva Geisler, email@example.com
Phone: 208-336-1070, Ext. 112
Veterans AffairsMedical Center
The Boise VA works with hundreds of volunteers each year in an effort to provide the best care possible to our military veterans.
Volunteers are particularly needed to drive a van used to transport patients from Canyon County to the hospital. Help is also needed in the Caldwell clinic stocking shelves and teaching vets a new computer program to aid in their health care.
Volunteers are also needed in the hospice program, as well as to do light clerical duties, serve as couriers and to visit patients in the hospital. Anyone who wants to volunteer should call the volunteer coordinator to pick up an orientation packet. Volunteers must undergo a background check.
Contact: Sharon Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org
Women's and Children's Alliance
The Women's and Children's Alliance has been on the front line of fighting domestic abuse for more than 20 years, helping women, men, children and families who have faced domestic violence or sexual assault. The nonprofit organization is always in need of volunteers to do an array of jobs, from clerical work in the office to working in the crisis shelter, manning the hot lines and staffing special events. WCA is also looking for people to join the Ambassador Program, which deals with community outreach.
Anyone interested in volunteering can schedule a tour of the facility by visiting WCA's website. After a tour, would-be volunteers can meet with staff to find a job that best suits them.
Contact: Tami Fisher, email@example.com
Phone: 208-343-3688, Ext. 41
It's a jungle out there--at least if you want to volunteer at Zoo Boise. The chance to work around the ever-growing collection of animals is a big draw and getting a volunteer slot can be quite competitive. In fact, the zoo accepts the majority of its applications only twice a year.
Still, there are some opportunities to pitch in throughout the year, especially during the busy summer months.
Volunteers are needed to work at the various education stations, on the new Zoo Farm, at the giraffe feeding station and the Wallaby Walkout exhibit. Help is particularly needed with the zoo's special events, including the upcoming Zoo Daze on Sunday, May 15. A select group also works with zookeepers to help care for the animals, including some of the less glamorous jobs like cleaning.
Volunteer orientations are held three times a year, with the next set for Friday, May 6. The next won't be held until the fall. Check the website for an application, or call or email for more information.
Contact: Tracy Bryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 208-384-4125, Ext. 206