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April 11, 2011 1:36 PM   Subscribe

My company is encouraging employees to participate in community service activities by allowing us up to two full days to volunteer during work hours. What would be an appropriate activity for a small group to do together?

Our 11-person department would like to choose a group service activity for at least one of those days. We’re well-educated, communicate well, and we’re motivated to do a good job on whatever activity we choose. But we don’t have collective skills that lend themselves to a particular activity. Most of us qualify as members of Generation X and we can participate in physical tasks, although I don’t think we’d like to do eight hours of back-breaking labor. I’d like to offer the group options beyond working in a soup kitchen or participating in a Habitat for Humanity building day, the two activities that keep getting mentioned. One we've got a couple of reasonable options, we'll choose one to do. We’re located in the Northeast U.S., if that helps. Thanks!
posted by Sukey Says to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Adopt a Highway?
posted by getawaysticks at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2011

Beach clean ups are super fun!! Are you within a few hours of the shore? Work gloves and trash bags are all you really need. Pack lunches and drinks and spend a few hours at it - you can even do solo walks or scavenger hunts or something, to break it up. Bring sunscreen!
posted by polly_dactyl at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2011

See if any local organizations that have physical facilities need some rooms painted or something. That usually works well for that kind of service/morale event -- it's physical labor, so it's not like your office work, the painting isn't too difficult, and people can do everything from tape edges to use rollers and can swap off on what they're doing. Possible candidate organizations are shelters for homeless folks and youth organizations.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:43 PM on April 11, 2011

See if there's a HandsOn or Volunteer Center in your area. Sometimes they can take care of details for you for bigger projects like painting or building.
posted by blandcamp at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2011

My grad school friends and I volunteered at a food bank. Depending on the month, we'd be sorting foods or putting together specific combinations of foods in boxes. It often involved some physical effort (except for the time we just stuffed envelopes) but nothing that made us break a sweat, I'd say. I always left with a true appreciation for the hunger in my community and the efforts that go into the prevention of it.
posted by knile at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

See if your local United Way has a "Day of Caring" event, or if you don't want to wait that long (I think they're generally in September), they might be able to connect you with an organization that needs something similar right now. (When I worked at a United Way and participated in Day of Caring, I ended up doing a lot of painting IIRC.)
posted by epersonae at 1:48 PM on April 11, 2011

As a group I've done spring cleaning/yard work at an assisted living center, stripped and painted a room at an elementary school, sorted food at the local food bank, and done some generic labor at a Habitat for Humanity build.
posted by msbutah at 1:49 PM on April 11, 2011

If there's a Ronald McDonald House near you, sign up to cook a meal for the folks staying there. Breakfast is an easy one if none of you are particularly great cooks.
posted by phunniemee at 1:49 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the United Way Day of Caring event.
posted by jillithd at 1:50 PM on April 11, 2011

Local food banks are usually perfect for a group situation. I volunteered at one in SF recently, boxing carrots and bagging pasta. They are very well organized and seem set up for one-off volunteer gigs (as opposed to my other volunteer activity which involves orientations and background checks).
posted by JenMarie at 1:55 PM on April 11, 2011

Services which provide correspondence with prisoners are almost always in need of more volunteer manpower.
posted by Jairus at 1:58 PM on April 11, 2011

We have had groups come to our cancer support club and do baking, data input,
gardening, painting. Poll your group and see if they have a cause in mind to support and then search for organizations that need help.
posted by jennstra at 2:02 PM on April 11, 2011

I volunteer with my local United Way, and they have a section on their website listing volunteer opportunities for all sorts of non-profits in the area. You can even search by the kind of work they need you to do or the the issue they address (literacy, hunger, etc.)
posted by shesbookish at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2011

Habitat for Humanity! Call up your local chapter and tell them you want to work as a group and they'll steer you in the right direction. It's fun. It's active. It's teamwork and a great cause.
posted by amanda at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2011

And! I didn't read to the end in my zeal to plug Habitat. I had a lot of fun working on various builds around town - way more fun than I thought it would be.
posted by amanda at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2011

Thanks for all the great answers so far. The United Way Day of Caring is May 19 here, so that may work well without too much administrative effort on my part. But my team might want something more specific so keep the suggestions coming!
posted by Sukey Says at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2011

Can I ask if you are getting paid for your volunteer time?
posted by parmanparman at 2:23 PM on April 11, 2011

My company has been doing this for a decade. Some of the things we do:
Food Bank Volunteering
Senior Center meal service
Homeless shelter meal service / meal prep
Museum clean up days
Museum hands on exhibit staffing (mostly kids/sciencey stuff)
National/Regional Park and trail Clean Up days
Library book sale help
Going into schools and reading to kids/let kids read to us
Going into schools with and organization like http://www.playworks.org/
Participate in after school writing / tutoring programs

Have fun - I find these to be really great team events.
posted by Wolfie at 2:29 PM on April 11, 2011

I’d like to offer the group options beyond working in a soup kitchen or participating in a Habitat for Humanity building day, the two activities that keep getting mentioned.

I was told that Habitat's policy on groups is that they're also looking for a financial donation from the organization. I could have been given bum information or it might have been a prioritization thing, but it might be that if your corp is handing out time but not cash this might be a non-starter for you.

Depending on your timing you may look into things for the local school system. Here in the DC area there's a volunteer day for the community to help with cleanup/paint/etc. However it happens on a firm schedule.
posted by phearlez at 2:31 PM on April 11, 2011

People where I work often do tree planting/reforestation stuff. Local environmental groups often have days, or can help arrange something. I also like the clean up ideas. Things that get you outside and improving your local environment. There are lots of good ideas here too though.
posted by shelleycat at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2011

This is not the case for our local Habitat: Habitat's policy on groups is that they're also looking for a financial donation.

Habitat didn't expect any financial contribution from our company group, and working there was fun for everyone that did it. You get a real feeling of achievement even though you may have only pounded nails all day.
posted by anadem at 3:59 PM on April 11, 2011

Parman Parman - yes, we are getting paid, and no one has to participate, either in this planned group activity or the corporate program. The program is designed to be flexible, and many people will volunteer and take the time individually, but we thought it would be fun to work together (for those who want to).

By the way, I think Habitat is a great organization. But I have heard from our local Habitat chapter that they have a greater need for money than volunteers right now. So I wanted to explore other options with organizations that need labor.
posted by Sukey Says at 5:24 AM on April 12, 2011

Make an appointment at a local blood bank, and all donate one after the other. Heck, once first-time donors realize how fast and painless it is, you may have helped to create a repeat giver!

My local college alumni group has tried to book time at a food bank but they only want us for two hours at a time, once a year because they already have too many groups trying to volunteer. Wha...?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:16 AM on April 12, 2011

Is there a school or community center that wants to build a vegetable garden or raised planting beds? It would require some funding and perhaps an ongoing commitment to come out and help maintain it.
(It's Spring! and I want everyone to be outside digging in the dirt!)
posted by CathyG at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2011

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