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Driving for a Cause: 8 Ways to Use Your Vehicle to Volunteer

Amid an already busy schedule, finding the time to volunteer isn't always easy. But according to this research study, those who volunteer their time actually feel like they have more of it, and notice increased productivity due to feeling more capable, confident and useful. Many people also report that volunteering has positive effects on their mental and physical health.  

No matter where you are or what you’re interested in, your vehicle can be the ideal tool to help kick-start your volunteering efforts. As the weather gets warmer and the days longer, check out these eight ways to get behind the wheel and drive change in your community.

Mobility shouldn’t be a luxury. At GM Financial, we're taking strides to bring mobility to more Americans through a collaboration with the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Check out this video to learn more about this unique initiative.

  1. Help manage a marathon. Many nonprofits hold their annual marathons, 5K races and fun runs during the spring to raise money and boost awareness. You don’t have to be a runner to participate in these events – races need drivers for everything from shuttle assistance and race-day setup/takedown to convoy leaders and mobile hydration stations. Find a race near you on www.runningintheusa.com, then contact the organizers to see how you and your vehicle can help.
  2. Hit the trails. Truck owners living near a national forest or park are in high demand by the U.S. Forest Service to help with light trail maintenance. Most volunteers are asked to remove tree limbs along trails, pick up and dispose of trash on the trails and replace signs, but some programs are simply looking for volunteers willing to transport young trees and shovels to neighborhood planting events. Contact your local park service to see how you and your truck can help transport some of those heavy and bulky items.
  3. Support your team. Little Leagues, soccer organizations and tons of other youth sports programs rely on volunteers to do everything from setting up the field to coaching the youngsters. On their websites, some specifically seek volunteers with access to a roomy vehicle for hauling equipment – a great opportunity to lend a helping hand (or wheel).
  4. Deliver meals. Grocery shopping can be difficult for the elderly or disabled, as it requires not only driving to the store but also heavy lifting and long periods of time on one's feet. Many organizations and food banks, like Meals on Wheels America, will put together bags of groceries or prepared meals that just need a willing driver to deliver them to the homes of their registered recipients. Can’t find an organization near you? Offer to pick up a few extra groceries on your next trip to the store for a neighbor or friend who may need a little extra help.
  5. Share your ride. Help society while doing some good for the environment by signing up for a ride-sharing program. Sharing your vehicle with other passengers helps to eliminate carbon emissions, traffic congestion and gasoline consumption, and it's a great way to meet new people and share the road. Typical trips can range from daily commutes to one-time long-distance rides.
  6. Help the youth. Many youth centers implement after-school programs to help their new drivers develop valuable skills like auto maintenance or road safety, and volunteers with a valid driver’s license are needed to teach seminars or weekly classes. Some shelters are also looking for drivers to be on call as responders who are available at any time to pick up and transport youth when they reach a designated "safe place."
  7. Make a delivery. Soup kitchens rely upon volunteers for more than serving in the kitchen or buffet line – they need supplies and ingredients for the meals as well. Many only allow deliveries at specified times and have requirements on what they’re able to accept, so make sure to check the hours and needs of your local soup kitchen before pulling up with a delivery of your own.
  8. Be a chauffeur. You can use your vehicle to help the elderly and vision-impaired reach their destination, whether it's for medical appointments, grocery store trips, hair appointments, pharmacy pickups, bank visits, activity center events, support groups or more. Volunteers will often have access to an online database where they can set their schedules based on their availability and proximity to the passengers. Trips can take anywhere from one hour for a one-way drop-off to up to three hours for a round-trip journey.

Whether your aim is to reduce stress, learn new skills, boost your résumé or just try something new, you'll get plenty in return when you start giving back to your community. So what are you waiting for?

 
Kristy Alpert
By Kristy Alpert, Guest Contributor

Kristy Alpert is a freelance journalist with extensive experience covering travel and automotive stories. Her stories from the road have appeared in Men's Health, Esquire, American Way, Afar, Fodors and more.

 

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