Where and Why You Should Volunteer in the 405 - 405 Magazine

Where and Why You Should Volunteer in the 405

As Oklahoma City continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, its need for volunteers grows proportionally.

As Oklahoma City continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, its need for volunteers grows proportionally. Some people are passionate about volunteer work, others may not have considered it—but its benefits for individuals and the community are considerable.

Volunteering strengthens the bonds that make us a community. It is a way to form relationships, and achieve personal growth. When we volunteer, we invest ourselves in what we are passionate about, whether it’s animals, health or youth development. In some instances, we may discover new interests.

Volunteer work may also carry added health benefits. A 2017 study suggests for those over 55, consistent volunteering could result in significantly fewer cognitive complaints and a lowered risk for dementia. Another study from the same year suggests that volunteering decreases pain, lowers depression and increases one’s “sense of purpose.”

And those searching for jobs who cite volunteer work on their resumes can be 27% more likely to be employed than nonvolunteers, according to 2013 research from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Today more than ever, companies like to see applicants with a wide variety of skills, and volunteering is an opportunity to showcase your strengths and passions while giving back to the community.

Where to begin, however, is the question. Throughout Oklahoma City, there’s an extensive list of organizations that need regular volunteer work. Choosing the right one may be as simple as going where one’s interests are, or branching out and trying something new. 

For local environmental work, Oklahoma City Beautiful—a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the environmental stewardship of OKC—helps maintain the appearance of the city with action, advocacy and education. Volunteers can collectively pick up litter, pull weeds and plant trees.

Interested parties can also look to OKC’s Parks and Recreation Department, which relies on volunteer support to continue offering community spaces, cultural events and recreation to residents and visitors. Citizens can plant greenery and earn Master Gardener certification at Will Rogers Gardens, or usher hundreds of eager arts patrons at Civic Center Music Hall.

There are many youth organizations that need a helping hand year-round. Positive Tomorrows works to end youth houselessness by removing hurdles such as basic needs, transportation and hunger, and volunteers work to mentor kids and help with after-school programs and field trips. Pivot Oklahoma City provides education, counseling, and housing to help end youth houselessness, and work can consist of organizing donations closets and food pantries.

Local Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs always need volunteers to help with various kids activities, from sports to field trips. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital also looks for volunteers to help set up events and raise funds.

Volunteers are also integral to the operations of the Oklahoma Humane Society, where they look after cats and dogs and assist in the foster care process.

Start the volunteer process by identifying your interests and contacting local organizations. Be sure not to overextend yourself, and be realistic regarding your time and availability. Spend time interviewing with the organization to ensure it’s a good fit for you. Well-established organizations want the relationship to be beneficial to all parties. Most importantly, commit to short-term projects initially and politely move on if the position is not fulfilling. Wherever you pitch in, you’ll be improving the community.

Find local volunteer opportunities: