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 …

Resale Store Volunteering: Great Fun, Great Causes

When Joan and John Vatterott retired to Naples, Fla., nearly 10 years ago, they volunteered with the Guadalupe Center, a nonprofit that supports 1,100 children in the nearby town of Immokalee, a low-income community with one of the largest populations of crop pickers in the country. Find Volunteer Opportunities at Create the Good » The Vatterotts started English-speaking classes for the workers, who are mostly Hispanic, Haitian and Mayan Indian. John also helped start the Tutor Corps program, which pairs high school …

A Warm Atmosphere at a Hypothermia Shelter

Soft, melodic piano chords fill the sanctuary of the Church of St. Clement in Alexandria, Va., early one morning. I get up from my cot to investigate. A man is thoughtfully creating music on the church piano. He pauses between chords, listening, thinking. “That’s beautiful,” I tell him. “You must be a professional.” Yes, he was, the former hip-hop musician tells me. He continues, speaking softly, gesturing with his hands. “Creating music is like building with Legos. It’s all about building …

Helping to End Poverty, One Person at a Time

“What does the world need me to do?” When Mark Bergel, 51, asked himself that question, his answer was to start A Wider Circle, a nonprofit in Silver Spring, Md., that provides everything from furniture to job training and clothing to support those in need. Now, 13 years later, Bergel, who serves as the organization’s executive director, is on a mission: End poverty in America. As I sort and fold donated baby clothes in the organization’s huge warehouse, Bergel, a 2014 CNN …

How to Find Reward by Working With Those in Need

As Maureen McCarty and I meet with Maria (not her real name), I realize the compounded struggles of the poor. Maria’s English speaking and comprehension are limited. She and her husband are separated. Her son’s health issues complicate her search for work. And at this moment, with area rents topping $1,000 a month, even for a small apartment, Maria needs rent assistance. Can we help her? Each Wednesday morning, McCarty and other finance counselors who volunteer with a Christ Church’s …

A Holiday Surprise: Learning How to Give

There’s a woman in my town who seems to be everywhere. She is of indeterminate age, and whether she’s at the Metro or the farmers market, she asks passersby for money. Sometimes she sells the homeless newspaper. She usually talks in a kind of sad, downbeat monotone. I saw her at the market Sunday, and it was pretty cold. When she said she needed a few bucks for a meal at our local cafe, I said I’d walk down with her …