Serving as the co-chair of UAH Staff Senate’s Service and Outreach committee during a pandemic ultimately taught me this lesson – there is always a need for selfless individuals in the world. Volunteering is a universal, timeless way to make a difference and show you care. People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some, it offers the chance to give something back to the community or meet potential friends in our ever-growing city. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills and promote personal growth and self-esteem. Intentions aside, one thing most volunteers agree on is that the endeavor is extremely rewarding.
There are plentiful volunteer opportunities in Huntsville – something to fit everyone’s interests and passion. Here is a list and descriptions of organizations that are close to me and can help you begin your journey to volunteering:
Burritt on the Mountain
First off, this place is a must visit if you are new to the Huntsville area. Beautiful views, hiking trails, Dr. William Henry Burritt’s unique 1938 mansion, and a farm setting in the 19th century – there are easily enough attractions to fill an entire day. My favorite venture of gaining volunteer hours in high school for the National Honor Society was as a camp counselor at Burritt. One week, I dressed up as a member of the Ingall’s family from “Little House on the Prairie” and helped teach teenage girls how to sew, cook, and run a household. Another week, I wore overalls and taught 5-6-year-old boys how to use tools and feed farm animals. I am not sure who had more fun, me or the campers?! They have ten different job descriptions listed in their volunteer handbook – there is truly something for everyone. Plus, perks and discounts for volunteers!
Stand Down Together Huntsville
We organized a food and clothing drive on campus in support of this local non-profit, which assists veterans so that they can once again be self-sustaining and better connected to the community. Upon delivering the donated items, I was amazed at what they have to offer. They can simply walk into their office space and “shop” for free. Pantry items, backpacks stuffed with a variety of toiletries, bedding, business attire for interviews, you name it. Seriously, they have two rooms full of suit pieces, dresses, slacks, ties, high heels, and all sorted by size, style, color. I know some people whose own closets are not this organized!
Crisis Services of North Alabama
“Responding to individuals and families in crisis” is their motto. They exist to assist domestic violence and sexual assault victims and provide crisis counseling and a suicide hotline. I went through the HELPline Crisis Counselor training and answered the suicide hotline during college – it is not for the faint of heart, but I definitely felt like I was truly making a difference. They also have a list of items needed at their shelter, HOPE Place, on their website.
Other counseling/health-related organizations: Thrive Alabama
305 8th Street
There are four homes along 8th Street (near Stovehouse) serving the needs of adults with disabilities ranging from autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, hearing impaired, visually impaired, intellectual disability, and mental illness. Their Facebook is constantly updated with several options to help or hang out with residents. While me and my friends and family assisted in a Deep Cleaning Party one Saturday morning, there are endless possibilities here such as taking the residents to Handel’s for ice cream, Concerts in the Park, a visit to Bridgestreet, or a simple trike ride around the neighborhood.
LandTrust of North Alabama
If you enjoy the great outdoors, this is an opportunity to explore what the Huntsville area has to offer! “Trail Care” is a major aspect of their volunteer efforts – with over 8,500 acres to monitor and maintain, extra hands are always needed. However, they also need volunteers to ensure their events run smoothly.
Huntsville Botanical Garden
Being a member, I am a huge advocate for this beautiful place! It is constantly ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the state and has been ranked on several national lists for their Christmas light displays and “Top 10 Best Botanical Gardens for Families”. Examples of volunteer opportunities include: special events, administrative, visitor center/gift shop, shuttle driver, and gardening assistant. They even have a Garden Docent program – attend training to learn about the gardens, its history, plant collections, special exhibits to become a tour guide.
A New Leash on Life
This non-profit’s goal is to make the Huntsville community and state of Alabama “no-kill” through spaying/neutering, adoption, and advocating for homeless pets. There are quite a few ways to get involved such as helping at one of their local thrift stores, being a pet transport, organizing a fundraiser, or helping with office work.
More notable organizations in the Tennessee Valley:
If you have never given a thought to volunteering, there is plenty of research that indicates it has a positive impact on mental health. Do good in the world and help make a difference today!
Brooke landed in the Rocket City in 1993 due to her father’s job, which is also a wildly common story around here. She grew up in Hazel Green (go Trojans) playing soccer and spending her free time exploring the trails and backroads throughout northern Alabama and southern Tennessee. Just could not leave the beautiful Huntsville area, she attended The University of Alabama Huntsville and continues to work there with the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, helping students pursue their dreams in STEM fields. You can find her at a new restaurant, trying one of everything, or romping around the Land Trust with her husband and two goofy boxers – follow Brooke’s adventures on her Instagram, @bbentzyo.