Get involved: Volunteer

June 22, 2013 

One on the best ways to get to know Columbia is to get involved as a volunteer. Not only will you learn about opportunities to make a difference and issues affecting the Midlands, you’ll have the chance to meet like-minded people and feel good about making a positive impact.

Here, a sampling of opportunities at Columbia area nonprofit organizations. Find more at thestate.com/livinghere:

Special Olympics of South Carolina: Volunteers help Special Olympics offer year-round training and competition to more than 21,000 athletes statewide. Coaches, event staff and other volunteer opportunities are available for individuals, groups and families. . More than ten types of volunteer opportunities include coaches, event staff members, sports committee and area steering committee. Opportunities are open to individuals, groups and families. so-sc.org, @sosouthcarolina, elassiter@so-sc.org, (803) 772-1555

Midlands Reading Consortium: Test scores indicate that 45.6 percent of South Carolina’s children are not reading proficiently by third grade. Midlands Reading Consortium, a partnership between Richland 1 and United Way of the Midlands, aims to assist selected kindergarten, first and second grade students read on grade level. Volunteer tutors read with students for 30 minutes a week and mentor the same student throughout the year. Last year, 433 students improved their skills thanks to dedicated tutor volunteers. uway.org/mrc, @uwmidlands, khouse@uway.org , (803) 733-7312, Kimberly House

United Way of the Midlands: In addition to leading the Midlands Reading Consortium, The United Way provides a volunteer center to support its agencies and community volunteer projects. The United Way hosts semi-annual Day of Action events in spring and fall, in addition to an annual SC Mission event that provides free healthcare to help individuals in need. Volunteer opportunities are available year-round for people, groups and families of all ages and abilities. getconnected.uway.org, @uwmidland, btupper@uway.org, (803) 758-6987, Bridgett Tupper

Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands: STSM is one of 15 rape crisis centers in South Carolina, providing crisis intervention, advocacy, and support services to female and male child, adolescent, and adult survivors of sexual assault and abuse in Richland, Lexington, Newberry, and Sumter counties and education about sexual trauma issues. The organization relies heavily on volunteers who serve as advocates, office volunteers, are on call for the speaker’s bureau and group facilitators. stsm.org, @scstsm, vsc@stsm.org, (803) 790-8208

St. Pats in Five Points: One of the world’s largest St. Pats festivals is supported by more than 600 volunteers from dozens of nonprofit organizations. The Five Points Association donates proceeds of the festival back to the nonprofits participating as volunteers. fivepointscolumbia.com, @FivePointsSC, amybeth@fivepointscolumbia.com, (803) 748-7373.

Richland Library: Make friends, learn skills and help the library. There are lots of fun ways to get involved as a volunteer for children and adults, including positions such as branch assistant, summer reading team, teen advisory board and welcome team. The library systems hosts more than 200 young people during the summer months. richlandlibrary.com, @accessfreely, (803) 799-9084, Cathy Dolan

USMC Mud Run: The Greater Columbia Marine Foundation is celebrating 20 years of hosting the USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run, which raises money and awareness for the families of Marines who have been injured or killed in the line of duty. While thousands of mud runners complete the course, volunteers staff the event, ushering runners from the start to finish lines. The event is so big, there are now two runs, in the spring and fall. “I am so glad to see how large the Mud Run has gotten. This is my ninth year participating and unfortunately, I have had the benefit of receiving support from GCMF,” says Columbian Kelly Weimortz Hoppmann. “My brother David Weimortz was a Marine killed in Iraq in 2006, after which I learned the money raised from the event helps support families like mine. I had been participating in the run for many years prior and never knew what a great cause it was for. My brother has a scholarship named in his memory which is given to a local high school student every year, funded by the Foundation. Thank you for putting on such a wonderful, fun event and for helping make the Mud Run what it is today so the GCMF can continue to support their cause.” usmcmudrun.org, @usmcmudrun, (803) 733-2511, volunteer@ourcor.org

Girl Scouts: From the words of Columbia native and active volunteer Bett Williams: “There are opportunities to be troop leaders to more periodic involvement, especially around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The more adults who participate, the more girls who can take advantage of this amazing organization.” gssc-mm.org, @gsscmm, (800) 849-4475, Jeri Kleckley

Harvest Hope Food Bank: Harvest Hope Food Bank, an organization founded by a group of volunteers, utilizes more than 8,000 volunteers a year in order to keep operations running at our various facilities. Last year volunteers put in more than 63,000 hours of service with Harvest Hope saving over $1 million dollars in staffing costs. Volunteers serve with the emergency food pantry, events committees, administrative positions, skilled and professional positions. harvesthpoe.org/volunteer, @HarvestHopeFB, (803) 254-4432 ext. 1115, volunteermanager@harvesthope.org, Debbie Summers

Columbia Opportunity Resource: Connects talented, creative and young professionals through service, leadership and fun. COR provides year-round opportunities through COR’s Action Teams and volunteer projects like the USMC Mud Run and World Beer Festival, in addition to promoting other nonprofits through its social channels. ourcor.org, @impactcolumbia, (803) 733-2511, volunteer@ourcor.org

Opportunities for kids: In the words of Columbian Terri MacLaughlin, “My children have volunteered at the Columbia Arts Center, Columbia Children’s Theatre, City Roots, the YMCA, festivals... getting them involved in the arts (for free) or getting them involved with organic gardening (for free), or with helping children (for example no payment when they babysit) is a great way to teach them to give altruistically while learning new skills.” City of Columbia Arts Center, columbiaparksandrec.net/index.asp, (803) 545-3093; Columbia Children’s Theatre, columbiachildrenstheatre.com, (803) 691-4548; City Roots, cityroots.org, (803) 254-2302; YMCA, columbiaymca.org, (803) 799-9187

This list doesn’t represent the hundreds of other incredible organizations helping to improve our community and the lives of people who call Columbia home. For additional volunteer opportunities, check out these resources:

— The State Volunteer Opportunities Calendar: http://events.thestate.com/columbia_sc/events/volunteer+columbia+sc

— United Way Volunteer Center: getconnected.uway.org

— Columbia Opportunity Resource Volunteer Picks: ourcor.org/serve

— Volunteer Match: volunteermatch.org

— University of South Carolina Office of Community Service: http://www.sa.sc.edu/communityservice/

— SC Information Highway (SCIWAY): http://www.sciway.net/org/community/richland.html

— Richland Library Clubs & Organizations Directory: http://www.richlandlibrary.com/services/clubs-organizations

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