Nov 19, 2022 - Things to Do

Volunteer guide: 5 ways to give back in Detroit

volunteer reads to a child

Photo: Zak Bratto, courtesy Brilliant Detroit

The season of giving is upon us. Here are a few volunteer opportunities with local organizations that need your help, but don't stop there.

1. Detroit Dog Rescue

The city's first no-kill shelter Detroit Dog Rescue started rescuing dogs and advocating for animal welfare reform in 2011. It's always looking for volunteers to help at the shelter or as a foster family.

Why it matters: DDR cares for over 100 dogs at a time, investing time and love into rehabilitating and rehoming dogs in need.

What to expect: Shelter volunteers cover over 400 hours a week for DDR, giving rescue dogs extra love and attention, while attending to other kennel needs.

Details: The nonprofit asks all prospective volunteers to fill out a form online whether you're interested in volunteering solo or in a group.

  • Volunteers must be 18 or older and able to lift over 40 pounds.
  • DDR is currently looking for people with experience handling large breed dogs.
  • Prospective foster homes can fill out the form here.

How else you can help:

2. Open Hands Pantry

Open Hands Pantry has provided food and other essential goods to residents in and around Detroit since 1982. The organization is looking for volunteers to help with food sorting and deliveries or work in the garden.

Why it matters: The nonprofit started out of a closet 40 years ago. Now it serves about 20,000 people a year and is part of the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

What to expect: Volunteers are needed on Fridays and Saturdays to help with the drive-thru food pantry.

  • Tasks include conveyor operators, bag carriers, registration assistant, bag packers, sorters and more.

Details: Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Sign up here.

Zoom out: There are many food pantries in the Detroit area that need your help entering the busy holiday season, whether that means donating time, food or money.

3. Toys for Tots

The local Toys for Tots operation in Wayne and Macomb counties distributed nearly 35,000 toys in 2021. This year, it's looking for volunteers to help with transporting, storing and organizing toys in its warehouse.

Why it matters: The national organization is well-known for giving gifts to children in need. Toys for Tots has supported 281 million children since 1947.

What to expect: This year's campaign began in October and will continue through the holiday season. If you're interested in volunteering, fill out this form.

  • Distribution of gifts will run from Dec. 16 to 22.

Of note: If you are or know of a family in need, the Toys for Tots' application closes on Dec. 1.

children pick up donated toys
Photo: Courtesy Marine Corps Toys for Toys Detroit

4. Brilliant Detroit

Brilliant Detroit transforms vacant buildings into accessible and holistic community hubs designed to increase kindergarten readiness, increase social connectedness and stabilize neighborhoods.

Why it matters: Volunteers help with one of the core missions at Brilliant Detroit, and that's improving child literacy.

What to expect: Volunteers are needed for reading cohorts and for virtual tutoring help during the school year.

  • If you can't commit to a regular volunteer schedule, the nonprofit is also looking for virtual story readers who record themselves reading a children's book.
  • View all volunteer opportunities with Brilliant Detroit here.

How else you can help:

5. Mosaic Youth Theatre

Mosaic Youth Theatre helps Detroit youth excel through theatre and music programs. The nonprofit is looking for volunteers, tutors and people to serve on its many committees.

Why it matters: The student-driven performances address gaps in local schools' art education, while spotlighting the many talented young people in the Detroit area.

What to expect: After-school tutors support students with homework, college essays and more.

  • If teaching isn't for you, Mosaic is also looking for people to serve on its committees on topics like development, finance and marketing.
  • View all volunteer opportunities here.

What's next: Mosaic's holiday show, "12 Plays of Xmas," will kick off on Dec. 9 at its Antietam Avenue theatre.

  • Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for youth and $15 for seniors.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more