Friends you haven’t met: Volunteer

1 Feb

Michelle Obama volunteering at Miriam's Kitchen.

With so many non-profits, museums, theaters, monuments, etc., DC is a fantastic place to volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet people, and it looks good on your resume. Some volunteer programs are better than others, so if you find one that’s disorganized and frustrating, don’t give up! Here are just some ideas:

I volunteered for the Natural History Museum’s Sant Ocean Hall as a docent for about a year and a half. There was an extensive training program: two full Saturday’s and two Tuesday nights. I eventually stopped volunteering because I didn’t feel that useful as a docent, or that good at it, but I’m so happy that I had the experience. Most of the other volunteers were retired, so I didn’t have high hopes for meeting peers, but I actually ended up meeting my boyfriend who was a contractor for the museum at the time, so you never know!

Visit the Smithsonian website to find out more about volunteering. Other museum volunteer programs you might want to check out are The Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

I’ve never volunteered at a hospital; I imagine it’s draining but incredibly rewarding. Walter Reed Army Medical Center has recently ended their volunteer program because they’re moving, but they give a list of other organizations on their website. You can also be a Red Cross volunteer at the National Navy Medical Center  in Bethesda.

Animal Shelters
I volunteered for about three years at the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL). It’s a fantastic facility with a pretty organized volunteer program. You can volunteer to walk dogs, socialize the cats or participate in adoption events (a great way to spend one-on-one time with an animal). Other possibilities are the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, the Washington Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies.

Soup Kitchens
Help DC’s homeless population get a good meal by volunteering at a soup kitchen. Some options are the well-known Miriam’s Kitchen, DC Central Kitchen and Loaves and Fishes.

Hodge Podge
I’ve recently started volunteering for Greater DC Cares, and I LOVE it. Each month they have a calendar of volunteer opportunities on their website. You find one you like and sign up. There’s no long-term commitment and it’s a great way to try different things until you find one that fits you. GDCC also has leadership opportunities: You can take a short-training program to become a Project Coordinator or take a Disaster Preparedness Training. A similar organization is One Brick.

Special Events
DC has loads of special events, and most of them need volunteers to help make them happen. A few examples include the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Passport DC (when all the embassies hold open houses) and the National Book Festival.

4 Responses to “Friends you haven’t met: Volunteer”

  1. avaerewyck February 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    ANOTHER IDEA: When I lived in D.C., I volunteered for close to two years for the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. You basically just play with kids who reside in shelters and transitional housing facilities, in order to give them something that kids in these situations often miss out on as they grow up. It’s a super cool, growing, woman-run organization, and there are volunteer locations around the city.

    • marseadc February 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Thanks Amy! Great idea!!

  2. Elissa February 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    I volunteered for seven years with Language Etc., which teaches English to immigrants. It’s a well-run and professional program and is an excellent way to help people who want to help themselves. It’s a big commitment, though — you have to be there one day a week for the entire semester (though you’re paired with a co-teacher). But it’s very rewarding.


  1. Eight ways to meet people in DC | New to DC: tips & tricks for the district's newbies - February 14, 2017

    […] Volunteer: This past spring I began volunteering as an English teacher for LETC. It’s been a fantastic experience and, on top of that, I’ve become friends with my co-teacher. I also met my boyfriend while volunteering at the Natural History Museum. I think in terms of meeting friends, a volunteer activity that allows you to regularly see the same people is ideal. […]

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