Where should I volunteer in Austin?
September 15, 2009 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Help me find an active, interesting, and rewarding volunteer opportunity in Austin, TX.

I've been unemployed for too long and am battling a depressive episode which seems to be crippling my job hunt. I'm not even sure I want to be doing the work I've been doing and going back to school isn't an option at this point. Someone suggested volunteering as a way to build my confidence and social skills as well as help me find a real career goal.

I've spent the last few years sitting behind desks and computers, so I would really like to find an opportunity to be more physically active while giving back to my community. As this is probably the most liberal and socially/environmentally conscientious city in Texas, there are almost too many options to choose from.

I have very little formal education and no experience outside typical clerical/office work. That said, I'd like to learn more about gardening or tending to animals. I would like to spend time outside, enjoying the fresh air and natural beauty that is Austin. I'm not in the best of physical shape, but am not opposed to manual labor. I'm seriously not big on spending a lot of time with children, especially large groups of kids.

I've done some research and am considering the following organizations:
Sustainable Food Center I know next to nothing about gardening or planning gardens, as I've never had the space or opportunity to do so and I fear looking like a moron.
Dream a Dream has opportunities for helping in the barns, which would give me limited time with children and allow me to work with horses.
Green Corn Project would also give me hands-on gardening experience.
Austin Zoo has a variety of volunteer positions available, including things that would utilize the job-skills I already have in their office.

As I'm currently unemployed, I have massive amounts of "free time" so can volunteer whenever, for now, but would like to find something that can be worked into a normal job schedule when I finally have one.

Do any Austin MeFites have experience with any of these organizations? I'm open to other suggestions as well.
posted by MuChao to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Johnson's Backyard Garden is a CSA that let's you work in the field for half a day in exchange for fresh vegetables. I think they also might accept interns who work full time. Never done it myself but I do like the food.
posted by Durin's Bane at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2009

KUT (Austin's NPR affiliate that sadly plays terrible music) has a very detailed Get Involved section with lots of opportunities.
posted by xmutex at 10:11 AM on September 15, 2009

Meals on wheels

They have good people and are always looking for new volunteers.

Best wishes! :-)
posted by jchaw at 10:12 AM on September 15, 2009

Caritas offers free daily lunches to anyone who shows up. (I always found this amusing, because I technically could go there on my lunch hour.) They always appreciate volunteers helping in the kitchen.
posted by spamguy at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2009

Response by poster: I will be putting Johnson's on my list of considerations. Not so sure about Meals On Wheels as that seems like a bit much driving for my tastes. Caritas looks interesting, but I'm not much a kitchen person.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. If anyone thinks of anything else, I'm listening/reading!
posted by MuChao at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2009

You might try VSA Arts of Texas. They focus on making the arts more accessible to people with disabilities. Among other things, they have some really cool volunteer opportunities as 'visual describers'- sort of verbal interpreters for blind people at theaters, museums, historical sites, etc.
posted by alight at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2009

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