Where to volunteer in St. Louis right now

Where to volunteer in St. Louis right now

When it’s time to volunteer, it can be a challenge to decide where to donate your time—according to one report, there are nearly 15,000 registered nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis area. Consider these 20, mostly smaller, organizations where your efforts are bound to go a long way. There’s something here for everyone: chefs, animal lovers, landscapers, bikers, bakers, drivers, dancers, or those who just want to help where it’s most needed. If none of these options appeal, the United Way volunteer center or Idealist’s search tool can help narrow it down when you want to give back.

1. Offer new neighbors a warm welcome with Welcome Neighbor STL.

It started in 2016 when Jessica Bueler held a toiletry drive on Next Door to help refugees arriving in St. Louis. Over the past six years, it’s grown into a vibrant nonprofit powered largely by volunteers. Helpers get immigrants settled when they arrive and tutor them in English. Volunteers also serve as hosts for the successful “Supper Club” program, during which refugee women prepare meals, share their culture’s food, and make money for their families. Since the program started, they’ve held hundreds of dinners and made $310,574 with 90 percent of that money going directly to the families.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

2. Help families keep their beloved pets with Gateway Pet Guardians.

This cutting-edge shelter is changing the animal rescue game. Traditional shelters do wonderful work, bringing in pets and adopting them out, but this organization tries to keep animals out of the shelter entirely by providing support to owners. Located in East St. Louis, where there are many animal lovers but few resources like pet stores and vets, Gateway Pet Guardians brings affordable or free supplies and services to animals and the families who love them. Volunteers walk shelter pets, help with vaccination drives, or work at the pet food bank. Some volunteers foster pets for families suffering homelessness, returning the animal when the family is back in a stable situation. 

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

3. Bring the dance party to developmentally disabled adults with St. Louis ARC.

On the third Friday night of each month, St. Louis ARC, an organization whose mission is empowering people with developmental disabilities, puts on a dance. They need volunteers to help with setup, greeting, refreshments, and cleanup. Perhaps most importantly, volunteers act as the organization’s “Ambassadors of Fun,” dancing, socializing, and helping the clients have a great night out.  

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

4. Read aloud to kids to support literacy equity with Ready Readers.

Ready Readers promotes a love of reading by bringing stories to life in low-income, under-resourced classrooms. Research shows that reading aloud to kids is essential to early childhood literacy development. Volunteers return to the same classroom weekly to read aloud to preschool-aged children, often giving them books to take home. The pandemic shrank their volunteer corps, but the organization hopes to regrow its number of readers to pre-pandemic levels to reach as many children as possible. 

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

5. Maintain one of St. Louis’ crown jewels with Forest Park Forever.

Forest Park, home to some of the city’s most important civic institutions including the Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum, and Missouri History Museum, is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. For the past several decades, the Forest Park Forever Foundation has undertaken an ambitious plan to restore prairies and wetlands in the park, making it a functioning habitat for native plants and animals. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until noon, volunteers assist with horticulture and habitat restoration, to keep the heart of our city in top shape. 

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

6. Support kids and families in crisis with Saint Louis Crisis Nursery.

For nearly 35 years, Saint Louis Crisis Nursery has led the way in supporting area families during difficult times. In the beginning, the focus was on providing emergency respite care for young children when families struggled with abuse or neglect. Although that aspect of the program remains, the mission has expanded to something more holistic: culturally responsive interventions to support families and prevent maltreatment in the first place. Today, Crisis Nursery has five area nurseries and 10 outreach centers across the region. Volunteers engage children in playtime, feed them, or rock and hold the littlest ones. There’s also the need for helpers to straighten up and maintain organized and safe nursery environments. 

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

7. Grow healthy produce for underserved areas with Urban Harvest STL.

Urban Harvest STL cultivates healthy produce across a network of farms in the St. Louis area. Their goal is to make sure all St. Louisans, regardless of status, race, or neighborhood, have access to fresh and healthy produce. While there’s work to be done in gardens all year round, they need extra hands for weeding, pruning, cleanup, and harvesting this time of year. Volunteers can help water and weed at Sally’s Rooftop Garden in Grand Center, or maintain garden beds at the Rung for Women farm in Fox Park. Or head to Urban Harvest’s volunteer portal and see which site needs help most urgently.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

8. Assist housing insecure people in setting up a home with Home Sweet Home.

Betsy Reznicek created this nonprofit in 2015 when she saw an unfilled need. While there were many organizations in town helping transition people from homelessness into stable housing, there was no singular agency to assist families with home furnishings once they moved in. So she started Home Sweet Home, which works with clients referred by other St. Louis nonprofit partners. The centralized warehouse of donated furniture and home goods lives in a 10,000-square-foot site in Brentwood and needs lots of volunteers. Helpers process donations, set up the space for a dignified shopping experience, and assist as personal shoppers.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

9. Bake a birthday cake for a child in foster care with For Goodness Cakes.

St. Louis has a local chapter of the organization For Goodness Cakes, which uses volunteer power to bake and deliver celebratory cakes for kids in foster care or facing life adversity. The website makes it easy to sign up and deliver the cake to an agency that will act as a go-between with the family, protecting the child’s privacy. Try it once or bake a cake every week, knowing that when you do you’ll be adding a bit of sweetness to the life of a kid who needs it.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here. 

10. Accompany terminal patients through illness with SSM Hospice.

It takes a special kind of compassion to be present with people at the end of their lives. But for patients in hospice, this kind of care can make all the difference in their last days, particularly if they do not have strong family support. Hospice volunteers do everything from playing music for patients, bringing in therapy pets, running errands for loved ones, or simply sitting quietly with the clients in their hour of need.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

11. Cook dinner for women facing homelessness with the Women’s Night Program at St. Patrick Center.

Since 1988, St. Patrick Center has housed between 20–30 women experiencing homelessness in an overnight shelter. When the pandemic forced the shelter to move temporarily to a local nursing home, St. Patrick Center used that opportunity improve the space. They installed semi-private, dorm-style rooms and laundry facilities, affording women in need a better environment for getting their lives back on track. Volunteers can support the women by providing a hot meal, either cooked off-site or cooked and served there. The volunteer chefs plan the menu and provide all of the ingredients. 

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

12. Teach a child to ride a bike with St. Louis BWorks.

Teaching kids from under-resourced communities how to safely ride and maintain a bike is the founding mission of St. Louis BWorks. Participating children can earn a bike of their own once they have completed the free classes. The program has expanded in recent years, now also offering computer and literacy classes. BWorks needs helpers to assist instructors during class each week. For volunteers who like to have fun and mentor young people, this will be a perfect fit.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

13. Geo-tag to help preserve overlooked African-American history with St. Louis Preservation Crew.

Washington Park Cemetery is a historic African-American cemetery in Berkeley, Missouri, that has suffered years of neglect. The St. Louis Preservation Crew has made it their mission to restore the site, allowing people whose communities have been historically disrupted and disenfranchised to reconnect with their heritage. There’s no experience needed to be a geo-tagger, and the data that volunteers gather will eventually allow the entire cemetery to be mapped. Descendants will finally be able to find and pay homage to their ancestors.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.  

14. Drive a mile to save a life with American Cancer Society.

The Road to Recovery program operates affiliate programs all over the St. Louis metropolitan area, including St. Charles, Franklin County, St. Louis City, and St. Louis County. Program volunteers donate time and use of their personal vehicles to take cancer patients without transportation to chemotherapy and other cancer-related doctor appointments. Volunteers may also provide moral support and resource referrals, acting as a liaison to the area chapter of the American Cancer Society.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

15. Fill a vital need for families with infants and toddlers with St. Louis Area Diaper Bank.

It can cost $1,000 to diaper a child for a year, which is up to 15 percent of the take-home pay of a single parent earning minimum wage. Parents without access to diapers can inadvertently put their child’s health at risk by stretching the time between diaper changes. For volunteers born to organize, this agency needs help counting, sorting, and wrapping diapers. Next month is the agency’s Fill the Warehouse event, with the goal of collecting 150,000 diapers. They will need many hands to process all of the donations they hope to receive.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here. 

16. Mow the grass of a struggling senior with I Want to Mow Your Lawn.

Yard work can be an obstacle for seniors who want to stay in their homes as they age. During the pandemic, I Want to Mow Your Lawn launched as a way for neighbors to stay connected and help one another out. Search by ZIP code to see if anyone near you needs a helping hand. You’ll beautify the neighborhood and build community with seniors, many of whom are at risk of isolation.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

17. Become a pen pal to an incarcerated person with Criminal Justice Ministry.

Nearly 25 years ago, Criminal Justice Ministry started a pen pal program to connect volunteers with incarcerated people. For inmates, this relationship provides a positive connection to the outside world. Volunteers who enjoy writing letters can use their skill to bring hope and a sense of normalcy to people who have been marginalized by society.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here. 

18. Pack grocery boxes for food-insecure HIV or cancer patients with Food Outreach.

For clients of Food Outreach who have cancer and HIV, the groceries they get each week are vital. Nutrition is fundamental when battling a serious illness, and Food Outreach tries to erase the barriers to good, healthy food, with targeted diets developed by nutritionists. Every Monday, this nonprofit needs a large crew of volunteers to pack up boxes for curbside pickup and home delivery.  

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here. 

19. Tutor an aspiring citizen with Bilingual International.

This organization offers citizenship assistance to older adult immigrants and refugees, and adult refugee survivors of state-sanctioned torture. Volunteer tutors are key in providing one-to-one tutoring in U.S. civics and history. Tutors don’t need to know a foreign language, but there is a once-weekly commitment to a tutoring session, which can be done in-person or virtually. It’s a chance to make a huge difference in the life of an individual striving to attain U.S. citizenship.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.

20. Donate blood and save (up to three) lives with The American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is by no means one of the region’s smaller nonprofits. But in pure impact, it’s hard to beat. Donated blood saves lives in our community every single day, and a single donation can save up to three lives. It’s a resource that needs to be constantly replenished; blood expires after 42 days. Some blood donors are regulars, giving at the maximum frequency allowed (every 56 days) and there are different varieties of giving, including platelet and plasma donation. If it’s been a while, consider re-upping your contribution to this community resource that benefits us all.

Find out more about this volunteer opportunity here.


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