In times of dwindling budgets, volunteers have become even more important to the Department of Parks and Recreation. In fact, they rack up tens of thousands of hours of labor.
The department is always in search of people who are willing to get their hands dirty--and maybe even break a sweat--with projects like weeding, planting and building picnic tables. Volunteers can take part in the Adopt-a-Park program to help maintain their favorite parks, or the Boise in Bloom program, in which they take responsibility for a park flowerbed throughout the year.
There are also a couple of big community projects each year, including cleanup days along the Boise River and in the Foothills, as well as the Rake Our Parks event in the fall. 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 residents get involved in outdoor recreation.
Check the website for specific volunteer opportunities.
Everyone needs a cake now and then, and Community Cakes makes sure everyone gets that special treat by baking cakes for patients in area hospices and elder-care facilities, as well as for local foster kids.
Community Cakes (formerly known as Angel Cakes) is a group of volunteer bakers who make birthday cakes for those who might not get one otherwise, as well as supporting events like National Adoption Day, Valentines for Vets and baking monthly at the Boise Ronald McDonald House.
Volunteers are asked to bake and deliver one cake per month. Anyone interested in joining the baking army can fill out a volunteer application online. After submitting the application, a recruitment officer will call to set up a time for a home visit and orientation.
For the past 30 years, The Community Center has provided an outlet for Idaho's LGBT community. Volunteers are always welcome to help staff the center and maintain the database, which serves as a statewide resource for the LGBT community. The Community Center also needs volunteers to help with its work at the June Pride Festival.
Create Common Good helps refugees get on their feet once those feet hit the ground in Boise, helping them find jobs and learn new skills, as well as opportunities to work on a small, local farm growing vegetables that are sold to support the organization.
Workers are needed to help on the farm, as well as to staff the group's farm stand. There's even a drop-in farm work day every Thursday morning throughout the growing season. Would-be volunteers need to fill out an application before they start working, but more information is available online.
If flora and the fauna are your thing, it's hard to find a better place to focus your energy than the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. Migratory birds and wildlife all head to the refuge along the shores of Lake Lowell south of Nampa, and volunteers help staff do everything from getting rid of invasive plant species to leading school field trips and educational programs.
Volunteers can also help with regular wildlife surveys conducted at the refuge, as well as working in the visitors center.
Anyone interested in pitching in--whether as an individual or a group--can start by filling out a volunteer application online or at the refuge headquarters.
The Eagle Bike Park has become a favorite of mountain bikers who like to escape to the trails in the Foothills bordering Eagle. All those trails are the result of a whole lot of volunteer hours spent both creating and maintaining them. And with big plans for the area comes the continuing need for volunteers to put their backs where their wheels are and help with trails. To get on the volunteer list, check out the website.
Family Advocates is the safety net for at-risk families in the Treasure Valley, as well as watching out for foster children, but it needs numerous volunteers to help its many efforts.
The organization needs 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 30-hour training course then dedicate at least 10 hours a month to the work, which includes meeting with children, doing background research and making official recommendations to the court.
The organization also needs volunteers for its Home Visitor program, which provides in-home visits for new or struggling parents.
If your time is more limited, Family Advocates always needs help with basic office duties, as well as volunteers for two major fundraising events.
All volunteers must submit to a background check and fingerprinting, which costs $40. Anyone interested can start by filling out an application form, available on the website.
The Foothills Learning Center is focused on celebrating not only the wonder of the Foothills, but the environment as a whole with educational programs and classes for families and children.
Volunteers of all ages are needed to help with those public programs, doing everything from helping with educational events to teaching workshops to working in the native plant garden. The Learning Center's popular Second Saturday is also a great opportunity for volunteers to get involved. Any positions that work directly with children require a background check.
Log on to the website to download a volunteer application.
We all need a helping hand every now and then, and that seems particularly true as we get older. Friends in Action matches volunteers with seniors who need a little help staying independent and living in their own homes. Volunteers do everything from giving rides to medical appointments, grocery shopping, yard work, housekeeping, minor repairs or just stopping by for a visit.
Volunteers must fill out an application and undergo a background check.
Giraffe Laugh is a nonprofit that helps provide child care, regardless of a family's ability to pay. The center also works with the Marian Pritchett School, allowing teen mothers to continue their education while their children are cared for.
Volunteers help with everything from rocking babies to organizing the group's fundraisingers. The group also needs help performing various tasks around the center, including reading to children, cleaning classrooms, working in the gardens of its various locations and transporting materials between sites.
The crew at Giraffe Laugh has an online system allowing volunteers to create user profiles and view all the available opportunities. To check it out, or to create your profile, visit giraffelaugh.org. All positions that work directly with children require background checks.
Habitat for Humanity puts a lot of elbow grease into its efforts helping Treasure Valley families in need create a place to call home. Volunteers are at the heart of the program, which builds affordable housing for qualified families who are willing to put sweat equity into the construction.
Volunteers not only help construct the homes, but pitch in at the ReStore, where donated construction materials are sold to help support the organization. Volunteers also serve on committees, as well as work as family partners with the families selected for the program.
Contact: Construction, Sarah Waltman; Habitat ReStore, Tod Wingfield;firstname.lastname@example.org