UW Combined Fund Drive

COVID-19 Volunteer Opportunities

Reaping the Benefits of Volunteering – Even Virtually

The world has become a very different place in the age of COVID-19. With stay-at-home orders in place for months on end, many traditional volunteer opportunities – sorting donations, reading to kids, building houses, serving in a soup kitchen – have gone by the wayside.

Despite the impact of coronavirus restrictions, however, the pandemic has prompted millions of experienced volunteers to find innovative ways to give back while encouraging those new to volunteering to try it out – making masks at home, helping elderly neighbors with online shopping, walking front-line health care workers’ dogs or teaching virtual classes.

Giving our time and effort helping others feels good

New research in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests that volunteers not only help their communities, they also experience a positive bump in mental health. At a time when some 33% of Americans are experiencing symptoms of pandemic-related anxiety or depression, that intrinsic reward or “warm glow” feeling provides both a buffer and a sense of control. Also, volunteering is likely to help boost one’s sense of social connection, particularly for older adults who may be feeling isolated.

And that’s not all. In study after study, researchers have found that people who volunteer lead longer, healthier, happier lives. Volunteerism correlates positively to stronger self-confidence, better quality of friendships and improved job prospects. Volunteering builds more robust social networks and, because volunteering often helps people discover their passions, the ability to tell one’s own story.

Interested? Try one of these opportunities

There are so many ways to share your time and energy! From virtual and at-home projects with an international reach to on-the-ground work in Seattle’s parks, there is something for everyone:

Tutor kids from underserved communities virtually in a variety of subjects, including reading, coding, math, and science.

Help make the Smithsonian Institution’s collections more accessible by volunteering online to transcribe historical documents or edit Wikipedia articles related to their artifacts and research.

Washington Trails Association offers a variety of opportunities, from local one-day work parties to multi-day volunteer vacations, working to restore and maintain our state’s public lands.

Chicken Soup Brigade needs volunteer drivers to deliver groceries and fresh meals to clients throughout King and Snohomish counties.

Amnesty International’s Amnesty Decoders network of digital volunteers helps conduct research into global human rights violations.

For those fluent in more than one language, Translators Without Borders combines language skills with humanitarian aid. Volunteers provide translations (10 million words a year!) to international organizations that focus on crisis relief, health and education.

Make well wish notes for local clients of Lifelong to spread good thoughts, support and greetings.

Family Law CASA of King County needs volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for children in court during custody situations. Training is provided and the position is largely virtual.

Sew face masks and PPE! There are dozens of organizations looking for volunteer help in this area. Not sure how to do it? Check out this mask-making tutorial from TheWholeU!

Tutor underserved K-12 students online one or more hours per week in math, science, reading or writing.

Create fun DIY displays at a local Habitat for Humanity store – it’s not all hammers and nails.

Phinney Neighborhood Association’s Hot Meals Program volunteers help by picking up food donations, hosting food drives and preparing, cooking, serving and cleaning up weekly meals. Shifts are available at both the Greenwood Senior Center and St. John United Lutheran Church on Greenwood Ave.

Need more ideas?

The United Way of King County website has dozens of regional opportunities! Reach out, get involved with something that excites you, and be ready for that warm glow feeling.