Enriching Ways to Volunteer When Snowbirding
While enjoying warmer weather and recreational activities are a plus, many snowbirds seek to give back to their adopted communities during their snowbird season.
Volunteerism among winter visitors continues to rise, making this group an asset to many non-profit organizations.
Many American and Canadian Snowbirds who enjoy putting their skills to work and donating their time while residing at their primary homes in the north also want to help organizations that meet their interests while living in their snowbird destination during the winter months.
Volunteering is an enriching experience for everyone, and communities across the south welcome their winter volunteers with open arms.
For snowbirds, volunteerism isn’t a trend. It’s a way to give back, meet others, develop meaningful relationships, experience lots of activities, and find purpose.
Although snowbirds can be any age, retirees make up much of this group. After so many years of working to put food on the table and pay college tuition bills, older adults are ready to find purpose in their passions.
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Volunteer or Mentor in Your Snowbird Community
Are you ready to give back to your snowbird community?
Whether you've been volunteering in your hometown for years or you made a resolution this year to give back more, check out this great list of ideas for where snowbirds or other travelers can volunteer.
There's something for anyone interested in donating their time while enjoying a stay in a warmer climate.
- Affordable Snowbird Destinations in Florida
- Affordable Snowbird Destinations in New Mexico
- Affordable Snowbird Destinations in Texas
Schools and Libraries
Donating your time to read, tutor or mentor can make a significant impact in the lives of kids while really helping staff and parents too.
Even if your local school district doesn’t have a formal volunteer program, you can reach out and offer your time.
One AmeriCorps volunteer program for Seniors, ‘Foster Grandparent,' connects senior role models like you with students with exceptional needs to help guide them to higher academic achievement.
Public libraries might also benefit from your support. You might share a talent or skill through a seminar or workshop. You can also offer to tutor both children and adults.
Helping with fundraisers is another way to volunteer at a local school or library, too.
Explore if your library has a Friends of Libraries program. This group of individuals comes together to host book and media sales and other programs to keep libraries funded all year.
Arts and Culture Centers
Theaters, concert halls, museums, and other cultural organizations offer volunteer opportunities for snowbirds who have these interests.
Do you love the performing arts? Why not volunteer at an opera house or off-Broadway venue? Ushers who volunteer at these locations get the added benefit of seeing the season’s shows for free.
If you have a background in the arts or theater, you could volunteer to paint a set for amateur theatre companies or teach acting classes to at-risk youth.
Museums and art galleries always look for knowledgeable volunteers to lead tours and work at the information desk.
You might even find a need for this type of help during clubhouse activities within your active adult snowbird community.
Food Pantries and Shelters
Are you motivated to help the less fortunate as part of your snowbird lifestyle?
Community organizations such as soup kitchens, food banks, and homeless shelters are always looking for volunteers. Hunger and homelessness aren't just issues in major cities; they also exist in many popular snowbird destinations.
These organizations need people for food, clothing, or supplies collections and to help serve or manage areas within the pantries or shelters.
You may find opportunities to deliver meals or schedule others to help with meal delivery, make phone calls for food bank support, or process applications for volunteers.
Volunteers at senior centers and assisted living homes can serve as friends or companions to older seniors. Or provide skills and services to teach or entertain elderly residents.
The Senior Companion Volunteer Program through AmeriCorps provides assistance and friendship to older adults who face challenges with daily living tasks, such as shopping or cooking.
AmeriCorps Seniors keep elderly community members independent longer and provide respite to other caregivers.
Veterans Support Groups
Most communities have multiple organizations to give back to veterans for their dedication and selflessness to our country.
These organizations work to ensure veterans’ have proper housing, food, medical care, and camaraderie.
To connect and volunteer with your local VFW Post, visit the Veterans of Foreign Wars site or do a Google search for other veterans support groups in your snowbird area.
Volunteering with faith-based organizations not only gives you a way to give back to the community, but they’re an excellent way for snowbirds to find a spiritual connection in their winter communities.
Churches, mosques, and synagogues offer numerous ways to get involved.
Other faith-based organizations where you may be able to donate your time include:
Do you have a love of nature? Many people think that eco-volunteerism is only available in exotic places, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of destinations throughout the United States to get involved in eco-volunteerism.
Many national and state parks have volunteer programs for people who love to work outdoors.
There are various programs and numerous opportunities to volunteer, from clearing trails to monitoring wildlife or even cleaning up a stretch of river or beach.
Reach out to a local group or state/national park in your snowbird community for more information.
Supporting the people in our communities matters, but supporting our furry friends does too. If you're fond of animals, why not volunteer at an animal shelter?
Animal rescue shelters often need help taking care of animals, such as walking dogs, helping at adoption events, fostering cats, cleaning, and much more!
Even pet stores utilize volunteers from time to time.
State specific volunteer opportunity links:
- Arizona – Find volunteer opportunities at The Nature Conservatory, the Mayo Clinic, Casa de Los Niños, and more.
- Florida – Search by type of opportunity, who you want to serve, location, or availability dates.
- Florida State Parks – Wide array of volunteer opportunities such as greeting visitors, conducting tours and special events, and maintaining Florida beaches, waterways, and trails.
- Florida Keys – In addition to state parks, marine, coral, nature, and wildlife organizations also seek volunteers.
- Georgia – Explore volunteering opportunities by causes you care about, skills you possess, or those great for groups or adults 55+.
- Georgia Water Cleanup – Volunteers donate time to clean up the streams, rivers, lakes, beaches, and wetlands across Georgia.
- South Carolina – Filter thousands of opportunities to volunteer your time in SC by city or zip code and in-person or virtual.
- South Carolina Aquarium – Offer different opportunities within its Anchor Volunteer Program, such as guest education, animal care, or conservation
- Texas – VolunteerMatch currently shows a need for almost 700K volunteers in Texas, search by zip code to find something near you.
- Texas Parks & Wildlife – Explore opportunities to volunteer in boating, conservation education, fishing and hatcheries, hunting, outdoor skills, wildlife science, and more.
To explore volunteer openings in other states, visit: VolunteerMatch.org
Are you a want-to-be snowbird who hasn’t settled on a permanent residence in the south yet, or one looking to explore an international snowbird destination?
While some seasonal residents find volunteer opportunities in a city they already live in, others seek out volunteer experiences first and go where the opportunities take them.
The website International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) brings people together to create life-enriching volunteer travel experiences.
Founded in 2007, IVHQ provides fully hosted experiences and organizes stressful stuff such as transportation from the airport and accommodations.
International Volunteer HQ self proclaims to offer “the world’s largest range of trusted and affordable volunteer projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Pacific.”
Sea Turtle & Marine Conservation, anyone? You can also search for volunteer project opportunities specifically for seniors, families, or other groups.
- Through Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program, you can volunteer abroad in nearly 30 nations. While the program is currently paused due to Covid-19, you can sign up here to be notified when it resumes.
- Become a WWOOFer – a WWOOF-USA® membership provides you the opportunity to travel throughout the USA while learning organic farming and other sustainable living practices.
What You Need to Know Before You Volunteer
Anyone interested in volunteering should find out about the organization's volunteer requirements.
Some organizations have very few rules and allow their volunteers to show up to events. Others require their volunteers to undergo extensive training and agree to background checks before engaging in volunteer activity.
For those who don’t want to go through training, the best opportunities for giving back are food banks and shelters.
But if you want a more immersive volunteer experience, plan to put in some training hours.
Anyone volunteering with children, disabled individuals, or seniors should expect to go through an extensive background process.
Before applying for a volunteer opportunity in another country, make sure the organization accepts volunteers who are non-citizens.
Let the volunteer organization know your unique situation. If you’re staying in a location for a short time, make this information known upfront to find the best volunteer opportunities within your parameters.
The Bottom Line . . . It’s Okay to Be Selective
You want your volunteer experience to be a rewarding part of your snowbird lifestyle. Do your research and learn as much about the organization as possible.
Being selective isn’t the same as being picky.
When you leave your summer residence and head south for your winter home, you want to give back in a meaningful way. Take the time you need to choose an organization that makes you feel good about the work you’re doing.
If you’re having difficulty finding volunteer opportunities, talk to other people in the snowbird community.
Often, word of mouth is the easiest way organizations find volunteers, and how volunteers find the best organization to volunteer their time, whether at their primary residence or winter location.
Next: Drawbacks to the Snowbird Lifestyle [and overcoming them!]