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By Karl Johnson

Some of us do it because we have to. Some of us do it because our friends do. Some of us do it because it’s how we were raised. And some of us just don’t do it – but we should. Giving back. It’s what makes the world go round and what helps those less fortunate than our selves have a chance at a better life. It’s about taking a few hours of your free time to help feed the hungry, clean your local park, rescue abandoned animals, rake the yard for your elderly neighbor or even help a young child learn and improve their chances at a brighter future. It doesn’t take much, but it goes a long, long way. For you business types, this is what we call a solid ROI for your time.

In today’s article, I’m going to focus on a wrap-up of volunteer organizations in the DC metro area and the people, animals or places that they benefit. Not an exhaustive listing by any means, but a combination of do-gooder motivation with some tips on how to get started. With a little help from you, we hope to continue this piece as a showcase of important volunteer events throughout the city on an ongoing basis. So let’s start with a simple question: What do you care about most?

Helping the Needy

The ability to put a little warm food in your belly and climb into a safe bed at night is something most of us take for granted, yet some in our area can only dream of. Tom is a big fan of helping the hungry and it’s definitely gratifying work. He recommends the well known non-profit Bread for the City, which is a great choice, especially since it received funding cuts in the latest proposed DC city budget. The list of essential services they provide for the area’s neediest is incredible. So Others Might Eat (SOME) is a similar organization that needs your help. Everything from food servers to tutors for children to even a graphic designer is needed. And don’t forget about Miriam’s Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank or Arlington Food Assistance Center.  Can you help make sure at least one less person goes to sleep hungry tonight? Your help will accomplish that for many!

Featured Event: A Dance Party that helps feed the homeless?? Skip the club just this once and instead hit up Miriam’s Kitchen’s “Cause for a Dance Party” at the Darlington House in Dupont on Saturday 10/03 at 7pm.

A Better Tomorrow for Our Youth

Are you a fan of teaching someone to fish? As long as we’re talking about that in a metAphorical sense, there is no better way to achieve it than to help our area’s youth learn and grow into bright young women and men. Every ounce of effort you put in will be repaid to society in spades by that individual’s future contributions. And you are really helping someone who simply has no other way of helping themselves. PLUS, they are kids!

Shannon has volunteered with Community Club and helps with tutoring DC Public School students. You don’t have to hold a PhD. in mathematics to help an elementary school kid learn, you’ve already got what it takes – just a little time. Cathy regularly helps out at Transitional Housing Corporation where she runs activities for the youth in transitional housing to keep their spirits high and keep them focused on what matters. She’s done everything from baking a key lime pie with them to making a dance video! Think of how much freaking fun it would be if you did both in one night…at the same time?!? Volunteering rocks. She also recommends Bright Beginnings, a group that works to help homeless youth and assist them and their parents with ending their homelessness. I can’t think of a more noble cause than helping a small child, whom has no home to live, learn and grow and overcome their situation.

Rebecca informed me about PAHC (Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care), an organization that has been serving youth for over 20 years to help children living with HIV/AIDS live healthy and successful lives. A child infected with this terrible disease is certainly not to blame for their situation – they deserve a helping hand from the rest of us.

And you can also help foster the writing skills of the next We Love DC writer by joining Corinne at Capitol Letters, which helps kids learn to write! A very important skill we don’t often support in young students.

Featured Event: Help the homeless just by walking! The 2009 “Help the Homeless Walk-a-thon” is on Saturday, November 21st and benefits Transitional Housing Corporation.

Read more here.