Books. School supplies. Food—always food. This month, as every month, the needs in Philly are great—as are the opportunities for volunteers to help fill them.
The holiday season and new year always attract lots of willing volunteers. But if there’s one thing we hear repeatedly from community organizations, it’s about the need for help year-round. That’s why in 2020 The Citizen will offer a monthly guide to volunteer opportunities with specific ways you can get involved in making a difference in your community—from deep months-long work to afternoon one-offs.
Find our full list of ways to volunteer in Philadelphia this month below. You can click on the pink headline to be taken directly to each organization’s volunteer information page.
Have ideas for future lists? Want to tell us about your experience volunteering for one of these events? We’d love to hear from you.
Where to volunteer in Philly this month
Give incarcerated folks more access to books
Philly-based nonprofit Books Through Bars sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in seven states. The best way to begin volunteering is to attend one of the organization’s regularly scheduled, drop-in volunteering sessions. They also welcome groups of five or more volunteers. If interested, fill out this form. Volunteers can do anything from choosing and sending books to organizing the donation library to helping with office tasks. Don’t have time to be there physically? Books Through Bars is always looking for book donations—see how to do that here.
Advocate for foster youth in need
CASA Philadelphia (Court Appointed Special Advocates) trains volunteers to work with children in the city’s foster care system, and its next training session begins January 27, from 1 to 4pm, with subsequent through January 31 and February 2 through 6. There’s still time to apply. (You must be at least 21, pass criminal and child abuse clearances, and be willing to commit to two years of service.) If you can’t make it to the January training, the next one kicks off on Thursday, April 2. All trainings are 30 hours and conducted at Friend’s Center (1501 Cherry Street).
Get youth the essentials they need
Since 2007, Cradles to Crayons has provided Philly’s 130,000 impoverished children with essentials like winter coats, shoes and backpacks. The group is always in need of volunteers at its “Giving Factory” in East Falls to help sort through donations and even make deliveries. They run shifts weekly and some Saturday and Tuesday evenings. For more info, see here.
Teach kids the art of giving back
Looking for a way to teach your kids about community service? On Sunday, January 26, from 3 to 4:30pm, bring them to Jewish Learning Venture to pack health and safety kits with Jewish Relief Agency, braid challah with Challah for Hunger, and sort clothing with Our Closet, a program of Jewish Family and Children Services (JFCS), at the Barbara and Harvey Brodsky Enrichment Center of JFCS in Bala Cynwyd (345 Montgomery Avenue). Please bring clothing donations and a few extra coins to donate to any number of participating organizations of your choice. This is geared for ages 3 to 8, with siblings welcome.
Nurture burgeoning writers
Have a knack for writing and want to share that with up-and-coming scribes? Check out Mighty Writers, which works with more than 3,500 Philly-area youth each year to not only cultivate their writing skills but to empower them to find and use their voice. The organization needs volunteers year-round, especially on Monday through Thursday evenings. If interested, this month Mighty Writers is hosting volunteer orientations on Tuesday, January 7, from 6 to 8pm, at 1501 Christian Street, and on Monday, January 13 from 6 to 8pm, at 122 Rosehill Avenue in West Grove, Pennsylvania. Go here, or contact [email protected] for more info.
Sort food donations
Philabundance’s Lisa Ryan says that the organization couldn’t serve 90,000 people each week without dedicated volunteers, and in the new year it needs more volunteers to help sort and pack over three million pounds of food from holiday food drives. “This food will not only help neighbors in need, but it will also help keep volunteers busy throughout the year. In a typical year, volunteers sort food drive donations from about mid-December until late spring or early summer,” Ryan explains. They’ll host 18 volunteer shifts in January, 24 volunteer shifts in February, and then go back to their typical 18 shifts per month after that. Learn more and sign up to help here.
Fight HIV/AIDS through retail
Non-profit thrift store Philly AIDS Thrift, which donates proceeds from sales to local HIV/AIDS charities, says it would not exist without its dedicated volunteers. Helpers assist seven days a week during store hours, manning flexible three-hour shifts where they help with tasks like processing donated clothing and home goods. You can find an application to help here.
Pamper pets waiting or a home
Philly PAWS, the city’s largest animal rescue shelter, needs volunteers at multiple locations to help with adoption events, caring for animals at the shelter and keeping cages and play areas clean. This month, the Southwest Philadelphia location (2900 Grays Ferry Avenue) is looking for people who are available between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, to work with dogs and cats. The Northeast location (1810 Grant Ave.) needs folks who are available between 1pm and 7pm, especially on the weekends. And the Old City location (100 N. 2nd Street) needs dog and cat volunteers who are available between 11am to 3pm during the week and between 5 to 7pm on Saturday evenings. Volunteers should be at least 18 and be able to commit to four hours per month. To sign up, see here.
Put a dent in the opioid epidemic
Combating the opioid epidemic takes community support, and Prevention Point Philadelphia needs yours. The group does monthly community cleanups on the first Saturday of every month (weather permitting), and can also use longer-term volunteers (who undergo a formal orientation) to help trash in and around the building. Director of Community Engagement and Volunteer Services Clayton Ruley says that volunteers should wear hard-toed shoes, because they will be working in a neighborhood littered with bio-hazardous waste. Gloves and identifying vests are provided. Email Ruley at [email protected] for more info.
Serve the homeless
Project HOME’s mission is to end homelessness and poverty in Philadelphia, and they’re always looking for volunteers to help with initiatives like street cleanings and serving coffee at The Hub of Hope (at the SEPTA station under Two Penn Center), where those experiencing homelessness can come for coffee, a shower, laundry and the opportunity to meet with case managers to find permanent housing. See more here.
Feed the hungry
Join Sunday Love Project in serving meals to the homeless at Church of Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square every Sunday. The organization is also always in need of non-perishable goods, such as single-serve meals, cereals, Gatorade and shelf-stable milk, for its Frankford High School food pantry. For more info and to sign up see here.