Get Up, Help Out: Volunteer Opportunities For Those Who Want to Give Back 

From arts organizations to social service groups, everyone needs a hand

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Family Advocates

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, information@familyadvocate.org

Website: familyadvocate.org

Phone: 208-345-3344

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, klundstrum@cityofboise.org

Website: bee.cityofboise.org/foothills

Phone: 208-493-2535

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, amber@giraffelaugh.org

Website: giraffelaugh.org

Phone: 208-424-3387

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

Website: hfhboise.org

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, karen@idahobotanicalgarden.org

Website: idahobotanicalgarden.org

Phone: 208-343-8649

Idaho FoodBank

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, volunteerservices@idahofoodbank.org

Website: idahofoodbank.org

Phone: 208-577-2720

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.

Website: idahohistory.net

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, volunteer@idahohumanesociety.org

Website: idahohumanesociety.org

Phone: 208-331-8553

Idaho ShakespeareFestival

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, chandra@idahoshakespeare.org

Website: idahoshakespeare.org

Phone: 208-336-9221

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, capitoltours@lso.idaho.gov

Phone: 208-332-1012

Interfaith Sanctuary

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.

Website: interfaithsanctuary.org

Phone: 208-343-2630

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, jordanstreetgarden@gmail.com

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