Nov 19, 2022 - Things to Do

Volunteer guide: 5 ways to give back in Boston

people work on bikes in a shop

Bikes Not Bombs is looking for volunteers to help in its shop. Photo courtesy Bikes Not Bombs

The season of giving is almost upon us, so today we wanted to share a special guide all about giving back.

  • Below are a few volunteer opportunities with local organizations that need your help, but don't stop there.
1. Prison Book Program

The Prison Book Program has helped incarcerated people in Boston and beyond access new and free books for 50 years.

What to expect: Among other tasks, volunteers read hand-written requests from individuals in prison and pick books they think they’d like.

Details: Book drop off and volunteer hours are Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6:30-9pm, Wednesday 1:30-4pm and Saturday 1-4pm.

  • The organization is based out of the basement of United First Parish Church in Quincy.
  • Sign up for a shift here.

How else to help:

  • Donate books during the above hours. Top-requested items include books on trade skills, hobbies, language dictionaries, exercise, business, self-help, religion and more.
  • Or shop from PBP's wish lists at local bookstores like Wellesley Books or Porter Square Books.
  • Make a financial donation here.
2. Pine Street Inn and Boston Health Care for the Homeless

Countless organizations in Boston support individuals experiencing homelessness, and many are looking for volunteers, including Pine Street Inn and Boston Health Care for the Homeless.

What to expect: Pine Street Inn has both virtual and in-person opportunities.

  • Create street outreach bags and welcome home baskets for individuals at all stages of their houseless journey.
  • Contribute and help collect scarves, hats and other cold weather gear.
  • Bake, decorate and deliver cookies to shelter guests.
  • See all volunteer opportunities here.

Boston Health Care for the Homeless volunteers must be 18 years or older and commit to at least six months of service.

  • The organization is looking for patient navigators, street team clinic assistants and more.
3. Animal Rescue League of Boston

Animal Rescue League of Boston is looking for volunteers to work in and outside its shelters.

Why it matters: Last year alone, ARL cared for nearly 24,000 animals in need, providing veterinary care, adoption services and animal advocacy.

What to expect: ARL is looking for volunteers to help at an adoption center or in the field as the team provides care for community cats, staffs special adoption events and more.

Details: If you're interested in volunteering, start by filling out a form online.

  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • ARL's Boston adoption center is located at 10 Chandler Street near the Back Bay neighborhood. It also has adoption centers in Dedham and East Brewster.
women guides a dog down a red ramp
Photo courtesy Animal Rescue League of Boston
4. Greater Boston Food Bank

Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank and help by packing, sorting, assembling and donating food.

Why it matters: Volunteers are essential in helping the nonprofit address food insecurity in Boston and beyond.

  • Since 1974, the organization has served nearly 100 pounds of food every year to over 600 distribution sites across the region.

What to expect: GBFB has volunteer shifts on Monday through Saturday.

  • Volunteer tasks include stocking the pantry, working with the mobile food bank to distribute food, unloading donations and preparing meals.
  • If interested, fill out the volunteer form here.
5. Bikes Not Bombs

Boston's Bikes Not Bombs accepts local bike donations and then distributes them locally to improve economic mobility or ships them around the world to communities in need.

What to expect: The organization hosts a volunteer night every Wednesday from 6-9pm, but it also selects volunteer apprentices to work with the team on a more regular basis.

  • All skill levels and ages are welcome, but youth under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Work includes "flattening" bikes so that they can easily fit into a shipping container, stripping bikes down to the frame, sorting parts and general cleaning.
  • If you're interested in bringing a group, schedule at least two weeks in advance.
  • Find more details here.

How else to help:

  • Donate. $250 covers the average cost of refurbishing and distributing a donated bike.
  • Recycle your bike with the nonprofit.
  • Shop from Bikes Not Bombs' online shop, which includes refurbished bikes, vintage parts, helmets and other gear.
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