A Recipe for Success: Cookies and Second Chances

Mary Jane Ward is receiving a very special present on her 55th birthday — a graduation certificate from Together We Bake (TWB), a nonprofit that teaches life and culinary skills to women who need a second chance. Once homeless and despondent over her future, Ward is excited to see where her new skills in baking, food safety and customer service, along with her ServSafe certification, will take her. All 12 women who started  the eight-week course completed it, and about 75 …

Volunteering in a Garden Brings Friendship, Peace and Beauty

Ronnie Gardstein dons her gardening gloves and pulls her pruning shears out of her gardening bag. A beautiful and overgrown pendula, or weeping hornbeam, is in her sights. She sits in the middle of the U.S. National Arboretum’s Asian Collections, eager to begin her volunteer work on a beautiful spring morning. “It’s an honor,” says Gardstein, 64, as she snips a wayward branch, referring to the privilege of spending one morning a week at the Arboretum’s 446 acres of cultivated …

Showing Compassion Makes a Difference to the Homeless

The steps of the bank seems like a perfect place to sleep. Mark (not his real name) stretches across the concrete. His belongings, stuffed into a luggage cart and grocery bags, spill out around him. He snuggles under a blanket and adjusts his wool cap. The blanket, his fleece jacket, three sweaters and his long pants should keep him warm. Twenty feet away an electronic billboard displays the time and temperature: It is 1 p.m. and 80 degrees. Emily Powers, …

Celebrate 62 Million Strong During National Volunteer Week

Every month, I learn about a new holiday or commemorative date to raise awareness.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, there are 30 such commemorations in April, including Vitamin C Day and Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day. While there’s a lot to celebrate about taking your vitamins — and taking business casual to the next level — there is one event in particular this month that I believe deserves our attention and support. This week marks National Volunteer Week …

A Tutoring Adventure With AARP Experience Corps

Beth Dugan, 58, loved volunteering at her kids’ elementary school. Now that her kids are adults she wanted to help out in a classroom again. A friend pointed her to AARP Experience Corps, a program of the AARP Foundation that tutors and mentors more than 20,000 kids in disadvantaged schools in 23 cities across the country. Dugan liked the structure, the 25 hours of pre-service and ongoing training and especially the kids. “I have grown very fond of the children,” …

Sun and Fun With a Volunteering Twist

Zip-lining through a cloud forest. Yoga in a butterfly sanctuary. Local, freshly ground coffee strained through a burlap filter. What’s not to love about a weeklong vacation in Costa Rica? As Roberta Lang, 59, and Monica Bolin, 54, sorted through their options, the friends from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, found a vacation package that included a service project at a Cost Rican elementary school. Bolin was hooked. She liked the idea of interacting with kids again and seeing a non-tourist …