Gainesville, FL is home to a variety of organizations who are in need of volunteers. If you want to help out the community, check out these wonderful volunteering opportunities.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
The volunteers at AARP Tax-Aide in Alachua County provide free and confidential help to individuals with low-moderate income, particularly senior citizens. As a volunteer, you will be able to help people fill out their tax forms and get them prepared for tax season. This kind of assistance is available annually, beginning in late January and ending April 15th. Make sure to visit the "Gainesville AARP Taxpayer Assistance page to find out what you need to do before making an appointment to volunteer. All volunteers undergo a special IRS-approved tax-training course and are trained to use tax preparation software.
Alachua Conservation Trust
The Alachua Conservation Trust is a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting the county’s scenic, historic, recreational, and natural resources. Volunteers are needed to participate in outdoor conservation projects, assist with special events, and help with administrative and office work. If you decide to contact the Alachua Conservation Trust to volunteer, make sure you let them know about your specific interests and skills. Depending on what you’re into, you can spend the day removing invasive species from conservation land or filling out paperwork and sending out mail.
Alachua County Crisis Center
The Crisis Center located in Gainesville, FL provides services to local individuals who are experiencing a crisis. Their mission is “to respond to every request and to participate in the solution of any human problem whenever and wherever it occurs.” As a volunteer here, there are a number of ways you can help people in need.
You may participate in the crisis line, which is a telephone crisis intervention and counseling service that runs 24/7. Volunteers complete a 60-hour training program and work under the staff’s supervision. Working on the crisis line is a very rewarding experience and volunteers must respond to callers in a calm, comforting, and empathetic manner. You may also work with the Care Team that is dedicated to providing face-to-face help to individuals in a crisis situation. Usually, these volunteers are sent out by family, friends, mental health providers, and law enforcement when special care is essential. In addition, there is the Survivors of Suicide Support Group, which meets monthly to help people who have been impacted by a loved one’s suicide death. Professional staff, survivors, and volunteers help run these group meetings. Lastly, you can be a part of community education and help conduct local lectures, workshops, and educational programs.
Keep in mind that volunteering for the Crisis Center is a huge commitment and all volunteers must complete a 6-week training program and schedule a 4-hour shift each week for a minimum of 6 months. Be sure to visit their website for more information on how to volunteer.
Alachua County Humane Society
The Alachua County Humane Society is dedicated to helping animals in need -- they bring in animals for treatment and rehabilitation and then helps them find loving homes. They are always looking for dedicated individuals to help us in a variety of areas ranging from walking, cleaning, cuddling, grooming, and socializing with animals to assisting with laundry, dishes, gardening, administrative work, thrift store operations, and special events. There are no special requirements for volunteering here, just as long as you have a love for animals.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s mission statement is “to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research and to provide and enhance care and support for individuals and their families and caregivers.” The association also works to promote mental/brain health in an effort to reduce the risk of dementia. As a volunteer, you can assist with office work, community events, event planning, and fundraising, checking up on caregivers and hosting monthly meetings, giving presentations on Alzheimer’s disease, and participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center at UF
If you’re ever on UF campus, you have probably passed by Baby Gator and seen children running around and playing outside. Baby Gator is a child development and research center that offers high-quality care for children ranging in age from 6 weeks old to five years old. This environment fosters children’s growth in cognitive, behavioral, social, physical, and early literacy skills.
Children are able to learn and grow in a healthy and safe environment with the help of an attentive and caring staff of early childhood educators. Volunteers are needed to play, read, and talk with children, as well as assist with general activities in the classroom. Help is also needed with supervision during meal and snack times, rest time, and playground time. There are 3 different locations around campus, so email the location you are interested in volunteering at and get involved today!
Best Buddies is a student service organization at the University of Florida that allows students and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become friends. For people with mental disabilities, the laughter and excitement of a trusting, caring best friend may seem like only a dream, but with the Best Buddies program, it can be a reality. If you’re interested in helping the IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) community that Best Buddies serves, which includes but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities, sign up to volunteer on the UF website.
Child Advocacy Center
The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Gainesville provides an environment that is supportive, child-friendly, and safe for neglected and abused children in the community. Counselors, state attorneys, social workers, victim advocates, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and Guardians Ad Litem come together as a team to coordinate interventions and investigations individual cases of child abuse.
The Center helps make children’s time in the legal system shorter and provides the support and services that children and their families need. Volunteers are needed to assist with transporting clients to and from therapy sessions, fundraising and planning events, completing office work, completing building and grounds maintenance, and greeting/supervising clients when they arrive at the Center. You can also help by donating items to the Child Advocacy Center -- you can view a “wishlist” they have here.
Downtown Festival and Art Show
Every year during fall, Gainesville’s art community hosts a festival and art show along the streets leading from the Hippodrome State Theatre to City Hall. This year, the 37th annual Downtown Festival and Art Show will be held Saturday, December 1st, 2018 from 10am-5pm and Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 from 10am-4pm. The festival is open to the public and free to attend. Each year around 100,000 people attend the festival and enjoy the colorful and vibrant ambiance of Downtown. In addition to the multitude of paintings (watercolors, acrylics, oils), ceramics, sculpture, photography, and jewelry, there is live, continuous entertainment by dance companies, solo musicians, and local bands.
Volunteers are needed to help with greeting and relieving artists for breaks, arts and crafts at the Children’s Imagination Station, welcoming guests to the festival and offering information, and engaging with guests for surveys. To volunteer, fill out the Volunteer Application and sign up for a shift (4 or 5-hour shifts) and indicate whether you would like to volunteer on Saturday or Sunday.
Eldercare Services of Alachua County
The University of Florida offers volunteer opportunities to help with improving seniors’ quality of life. Volunteers make a positive difference in the lives of many seniors and are a significant part of the programs and services that ElderCare of Alachua County offers. ElderCare welcomes volunteers of all ages, both individually and as groups volunteering together. You can help deliver Meals on Wheels, assist seniors with arts and crafts, educational and exercise programs, socialize and entertain the elderly, and provide services to seniors with Alzheimer’s or memory impairment. Check out UF’s page for Eldercare Services to learn more about how you can help.
Gainesville Community Playhouse
The Gainesville Community Playhouse at the Vam York Theater is one of Gainesville's awesome theaters that puts on about six shows a year. As a volunteer, you can provide administrative support, help with the production crew, backstage operations, hospitality services, and participate in the live performances.
Gator Pals is a UF-registered nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping children with mental and physical disabilities. The organization goes to Gainesville area schools and plays sports with the children during their physical education period. Volunteers can assist with sports such as basketball, bike riding, tennis, and weightlifting. You can contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Helping Hands Clinic
The Helping Hands Clinic is a not-for-profit clinic that provides medical services for the homeless in Gainesville. They are located at the First United Methodist Church and have been helping the homeless since 1989. The clinic is staffed by registered nurses, physicians, advanced registered nurse practitioners, community service volunteers, psychiatrists, and social workers.
Patients who visit the clinic may have traumatic injuries, high blood pressure, severe dental problems, upper respiratory infections, and high blood pressure. The Helping Hands Clinic also offers referral and funding services for prescription glasses and eye exams. In addition, they provide essential resources such as socks, blankets, personal hygiene products, books, shoes, and reading glasses.
Peaceful Paths is a certified domestic abuse network that provides services to domestic violence survivors. These services include emergency shelter, a crisis hotline, children’s programming, transitional housing, victim advocacy, special counseling, and support groups. Their core values are empowerment, hope, respect, honesty, empathy, compassion, choice, peace, mentoring and advocacy.
Volunteers here are dedicated to instilling self-esteem and confidence, supplying resources and information, providing a supportive, safe environment, encouraging people to realize their personal goals, and promoting equality and diversity. If you are interested in helping, you can participate by getting involved with the Crisis Line and shelter services, counseling, support groups, the Victim Advocacy Program, children’s programs, repairs and maintenance, administrative work, Violence Prevention Teen Groups, training, and/or fundraising.