Lend a Hand: Boise Weekly's Annual Volunteer Guide 

Five opportunities to give a little back year round

Idaho Gives takes place Thursday, May 7, when for 24 hours donations to nonprofits around the state will pour in through idahogives.org. Last year 7,500 donors gave more than $780,000 to 660 causes big and small. That's a huge, important success, but there are other opportunities to give back year round. Below are a handful of organizations—some more well known than others—with opportunities to help improve everything from the quality of hiking trails to the quality of children's lives.

Idaho Trails Association

In 2013, the Idaho Legislature declared portions of Idaho's backcountry a "disaster area." The Idaho Trails Association is on a mission to fix that. The nonprofit is gearing up for its fifth summer and volunteers from across the state will work to maintain trail systems and improve stewardship of the land.

This summer, the ITA kicks off the season on Saturday, June 6—National Trails Day. Volunteers can work with the Bureau of Land Management to help improve trails in the Owyhee Canyonlands. Opportunities exist all summer from Sandpoint to McCall, the Boulder-White Clouds and the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Trail stewards don't use any power tools, only saws and shovels. Anyone can help, but kids under 18 need to be with a parent. Trail work ranges from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on the occasional Saturday to full-week trips throughout the summer.

Find a full schedule at idahotrailsassociation.org.

Idaho Diaper Bank

More than half of Idaho children younger than 3 years old live in poverty. That means families often struggle to provide basic needs for their children, including a critical item: diapers. Diapers aren't covered under government assistance like food stamps, leaving parents to choose between food, gas in the car, diapers or paying bills.

"Because of that, parents try to stretch a diaper longer than would be ideal," said Shawna Walz, executive director of the Idaho Diaper Bank. "In desperate situations, they try to clean diapers out and reuse them."

The organization delivers 10,000 diapers per month to food banks and domestic violence shelters, but it can use help from volunteers to bundle diapers at its Meridian warehouse, hold diaper drives and raise awareness of the need for diapers in communities.

To help, visit the Idaho Diaper Bank's website and subscribe to the mailing list at idahodiaperbank.org.

Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline

The most recent quarterly report from the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline revealed call volumes to be at an all-time high. In some ways, this is good news: It means awareness of the resource is getting out and people in hard situations are more willing to call.

It also means the hotline could use more help. Volunteering for ISPH is a commitment, though. Training includes a vigorous 45 hours, plus ongoing remote training and required phone shifts. The phone room usually has two volunteers on board, as well as a clinical staff person to help walk them through difficult phone calls. The next training begins Saturday, Oct. 3.

For those who want to be involved in the cause, but feel intimidated about being a phone responder, they can be a hotline ambassador. The ambassadors represent the hotline at community events and raise awareness of ISPH and the struggles with suicide in the state.

More information can be found at idahosuicideprevention.org.

Idaho Street Law Clinic

Erika Birch, attorney at Strindberg+Scholnick and street lawyer. - LAURIE PEARMAN
  • Laurie Pearman
  • Erika Birch, attorney at Strindberg+Scholnick and street lawyer.

The Idaho Trial Lawyers Association launched the Street Law Clinic in February 2013 at the Main Branch of the Boise Public Library, where members of the public with legal questions could consult for free with upcoming law school graduates supervised by practicing attorneys.

The program is still going strong more than two years later, with two-hour sessions on the second Monday each month. Lawyers and law school students with an itch for community service may sign up for volunteer hours through the program, during which they'll provide assistance in a variety of legal areas like family, contract, criminal and civil law. In a given session, volunteers may assist between 40 and 50 people each night, making a difference in the lives of people who could use legal assistance or advice, but are unable to afford it.

First Monday of the month, 4-6 p.m., FREE. Boise Public Library-Main Branch, 715 Capitol Blvd., 208-972-8200, itla.org.

Guardian ad Litem Program/Family Advocates

The need has never been greater for volunteers to speak for Idaho children who have lived in the shadow of abuse or neglect. That's where guardians ad litem, or court appointed special advocates, come in—serving as voices for kids in the court system.

GAL volunteers are appointed to a child who has been brought into protective custody by law enforcement and/or the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Guardians visit the child, investigate the trouble that resulted in their custody and report directly to the court on behalf of the child.

In the Treasure Valley, the Family Advocate Program administers the GAL program, training and managing scores of volunteers. Unfortunately, the number of children in need isn't going down, so the demand for new guardians is never ending.

Family Advocates GAL/CASA Program, 3010 W. State St., 208-345-3344, strongandsafe.org.

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