Whatcom Volunteer Center, parks offer ways for families to help others

With sunny, school-free days ahead, now is a great time to start planning for summer activities that will not only keep the kids busy, but teach them the value of giving back by volunteering.

There are a variety of ways to become involved with people and organizations in the community that need help. Ideas include: Join a scouting troop, check Whatcom Volunteer Center’s postings, and keep an eye out for work parties in your area.

Whatcom Volunteer Center hosts a list of current and upcoming opportunities on its website whatcomvolunteer.org. The list can easily be filtered by age-group and interest. Advice: Don’t become discouraged if an event doesn’t say if it’s open to those 12 and younger, said Astrid Sloan, the center’s operations director.

“If you have a special area of interest, a lot of times if you contact those agencies and express an interest in that need, and say ‘Hey, can I bring my 10-year-old son with me?’ I think you’ll find most of them are open to that,” Sloan said. “Some of the listings on our site that say youth-appropriate or family-friendly are basically saying they’ll take a minor, as long as they come with a guardian.”

Chore program

One program the center directly coordinates is a Chore Program, which pairs willing people with low-income seniors who need help around the house.

“They have a lower income, they’re trying to stay in their homes, and the volunteer Chore Program enables them to stay in their own home, since chores around the house can be difficult for a senior,” Sloan said.

Chores might include anything from vacuuming to gardening, which means different family members could each get a task to do.

“My daughters and I have volunteered before and did everything from planting flowers to lawn mowing,” Sloan said. “It’s a nice way for that senior to feel connected to the community, since they can be pretty isolated.”

The Chore Program also enables families to build up a relationship with the senior they assist, since volunteers are matched with a client they get to see on a regular basis, whether it’s once a month or once a week, Sloan said.

Earlier this spring, there were more than 60 people on the waiting list, waiting to be matched with a volunteer, so there is usually a need for more help, she said.

VOLUNTEER: Read more about the program at whatcomvolunteer.org/programs/volunteer-chore-program. To sign up, call Abby Lund, program director, at 360-746-2366, or email chore@whatcomvolunteer.org to schedule an orientation.

Hovander Homestead Park

Each summer, Whatcom County recruits volunteers to help take care of Hovander Homestead Park’s farm animals and maintain the fragrance garden.

Parents or guardians will need to stay and work with children if they’re going to volunteer for either opportunity, said Michael McFarlane, director of Whatcom County Parks and Recreation.

Kids who volunteer with their families will get to learn about farm animals and responsibility by helping with daily tasks that usually take about an hour, rain or shine. The animals have set schedules: for example they might have a morning feeding, afternoon cleaning, or evening cleanup, so volunteers who want to work with them should expect to be there at a regular time at least once per week, McFarlane said. Training is provided.

VOLUNTEER: Volunteers need to apply through Whatcom County or the Volunteer Center website. For more information, contact Darla Smith at 360-733-2900 or by email at tap@co.whatcom.wa.us.