It's Better to Give 

Volunteer opportunities abound in the Treasure Valley

Donor generosity is part of the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Nonprofits bank on monetary support from individuals and organizations, as well as city/state/federal grants when putting together budgets and planning for the future--one donation can make the difference between celebrating another year or closing the doors for good. Most nonprofits also rely on a type of support that appears less tangible but is no less integral: sweat equity. By doing everything from stuffing envelopes to managing fundraising galas, volunteers are vital to a nonprofit's survival, and in turn, volunteerism provides a sense of purpose for those giving their time and energy to a cause they believe in. And it's healthy: Polls from a 2013 study by United Health Group, a massive managed health care company, showed people who volunteered were happier, healthier, less stressed, felt they were improving their communities, and experienced an overall sense of enrichment in their lives.

Below is a small sampling of local nonprofit organizations who happily welcome volunteers for both one-time events and long-term support.

As philosopher Albert Schweitzer said, "Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don't live in a world all of your own."

Ada Bike Count

The Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance is getting ready for its bi-annual bicycle and pedestrian data collection, May 6-8. Volunteers needed 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. all three days. Sign up at biketreasurevalley.org/bikecountsignup.

Ada County Sheriff's Office

Ada County Sheriff's Office Volunteer Coordinator Caryl Humphries said when she first took the position in July 2013, the volunteer program had been kind of neglected.

"So I went around to each of the departments [in the Sheriff's Office] and talked with people about how they could use volunteers. I was just amazed at the wide variety of opportunities we have here."

Those opportunities, for which training is provided, include the re-established Eagle Greenbelt patrol program, which they hope to have up and running by Thursday, May 1; and upcoming outdoor events like Eagle Fun Days, bike rodeos, National Night Out and others.

Humphries said they also need volunteers indoors in communications, graphic design, writing/technical writing, vehicle maintenance, warehouse, armory and even officer training. They also need volunteers in the jail to help inmates ready to re-enter society, study for GED tests and provide training in areas like culinary arts or sewing and laundry. The jail can always use medical professional volunteers to help out in the health services areas.

It's important to note that all volunteers must undergo the same rigorous screening process as employees, which Humphries said takes about two months and includes a full background check, a polygraph exam and a criminal history check. For more info, visit adasheriff.org/communityprograms/volunteers.aspx or contact Humphries directly at 208-577-3749 or chumphries@adaweb.net.

Ada County Sheriff's Office, 7200 Barrister Drive, Boise, 208-577-3000, adasheriff.org.

Book It Forward

Book It Forward was started in September 2013 with a goal to get a book in the hands of any child who wants one, including children from low-income families or those with little or no access to books outside of school. Since then, working under Idaho Voices for Children and with The Cabin, the small group of about eight parents that expected to get a few hundred books donated has already distributed thousands. With a sense of awe, BIF co-founder Terry Garabedian said, "It just took off."

Now along with collecting, cleaning and distributing books, BIF is holding reading events like the recent one at Taft Elementary, in which football players from Bishop Kelly read to students. But students aren't the only recipients of books. BIF collects books for ages preschool to adult and works with programs like Caldwell's P16, which focuses on education from preschool through college graduation (instead of K-12).

Book drop-off bins are located at the Downtown YMCA, the West Valley YMCA and the Lee Pesky Learning Center. Volunteers are needed to help collect, clean, sort and distribute gently used and new books.

Visit facebook.com/bookitforwardidaho for more information.

Boise Bicycle Project

Boise Bicycle Project welcomes volunteers interested in working on bicycles for children of low-income families, refugees and members of the homeless population. Volunteer times are Wednesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays-Sundays 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit boisebicycleproject.org for more information. 1027 Lusk St., 208-429-6520.

Boise Bike Week

Through May 10, the TVCA is also looking for volunteers for the 11th annual Boise Bike Week, happening May 11-17. Email lisab@biketrasurevalley.org or visit biketreasurevalley.org for more information.

Boys & Girls Clubs

of Ada County

Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County needs volunteers to help at its Meridian, Moseley Center and Kuna Summer Program, as well as on its board and at any of its slew of events and community service programs. Visit adaclubs.org/how-to-help/volunteers for more information.

Community Cakes

Community Cakes works with organizations such as Idaho State Veterans' Home, The Ronald McDonald House, Life's Doors Hospice, the Good Samaritan Home, the Women's and Children's Alliance and more to get birthday cakes to people who wouldn't get one without them. Bakers don't have to be skilled professionals to help out--although expert chefs are welcome, too--and can volunteer whatever time works for them, whether that means baking one cake per month or two per week.

Visit communitycakes.com or facebook.com/pages/Community-Cakes for information and to fill out a volunteer application.

Disabled American Veterans

The DAV needs volunteers in every aspect of the services it offers disabled veterans, from work with patients to help with recreational programs to transportation. For example, the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network helps sick and disabled veterans get the medical treatment they need--Idaho's chapter transports veterans to medical centers in Boise, Salt Lake City, and Spokane, Wash. For more information, visit boise.va.org or contact the VA Regional Office 444 W. Fort St., Room 143, 208-429-2140.

Idaho Humane Society

The Idaho Humane Society needs an army of long-term and short-term volunteers to help with behind-the-scenes work like creating content for its website, as well as boots-on-the-ground work like organizing fundraising events, staffing mobile adoption units, feeding and walking shelter animals, fostering animals, making blankets for cats and kittens, and even collecting newspapers for lining cages or aluminum cans that the IHS recycles for cash. Even the IHS board of directors is an all-volunteer board.

The minimum age for IHS volunteers is 12 years old and volunteers age 12-16 must train and volunteer one-on-one with an adult (parent or guardian). All volunteers must complete an application and training. Visit idahohumanesociety.com for an application. 4775 W. Dorman St., 208-342-3508.

Special Olympics Idaho

Special Olympics Idaho serves more than 27,900 children and adults in Idaho with intellectual disabilities, and it provides year-round sports training and competition. This year, SOI was selected as the nonprofit beneficiary for the Color Me Rad 5K Saturday, May 3, and SOI needs a minimum of 50 volunteers to help out with the race in two shifts: 7 a.m.-12 p.m. or 12-3 p.m.

Visit idso.org for more information or to sign up to volunteer for Color Me Rad 5K.

City of Boise

Although it's not a nonprofit, the city of Boise is looking for volunteers to conduct a survey of Foothills users Saturday, May 17.

The survey will be used to inform the management of open space in the Boise Front Range and 140 miles of trails. Teams of two to three volunteers will spend four-hour shifts at various Boise Foothills trailheads.

Volunteers can request a specific trailhead and organizers will do their best to accommodate. Sign up at parks.cityofboise.org/volunteers or call 208-608-7617.

If you would like your organization's volunteer opportunities listed on boiseweekly.com, send an email to calendar@boiseweekly.com.

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