So I just got a bad ass photograph of Santa Monica beach from 1932. I won it at the k9 Connection Softball fundraiser. Go me!
This would not be the first thing I've gotten from volunteering. I mean technically I paid for this, because I bought raffle tickets to win it, but over the years I've gotten more free food than I could begin to weigh, tons of free alcohol, an iPod touch, a giant flat screen television, conversations with Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Sally Field, a dance and a rose from Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Korev, even a trip to Chicago - all free, all from volunteering. If Richard Simmons is the best kept secret in LA, volunteering is the best kept secret in life. Organizations often have to beg people to help, when really, they should be turning people away due to overflow.
Take for instance k9 Connection. My favourite nonprofit. In their own words:
k9 connection brings the magic of dogs and kids together. At-risk teens ages 14 to 18, train homeless shelter dogs in basic obedience, assisting the dogs to develop the skills to become adoptable.
k9 connection empowers at-risk teenagers to apply the lessons they teach the dogs to their own lives: to develop an awareness of the risks of uncontrolled and impulsive behavior, and to believe in the power of positive reinforcement as an alternative to force and violence.
k9 connection aids teenagers in becoming responsible community members by focusing on goal setting, personal accountability, and personal motivation.
My personal commitment to k9 has really just been raising money for them each year. But they have lots more volunteer opportunities. What they usually need is for people to walk the dogs. There are several reasons volunteering at k9 will enrich your life:
- Your standard warm and fuzzy "I'm helping" feelings.
- Dudes. Trust me when I say this. Dogs are chick magnets. We cannot stay away from them. I guarantee if you take one of these dogs out to a park, at least one hot chick will come and talk to you. AND, you already have a built-in conversation starter, because the dogs wear these ridiculously cute orange vests that say "Adopt Me" and you can tell the hot chicks how you're sensitive and caring and you help homeless dogs. If you're at least halfway decent looking and a have a dash of hutzpah somewhere in your bones, I bet you could get at least one date per dog walking experience.
- Sometimes they have other events. Like this one time I volunteered and ended up spending the evening in one of those really cool and expensive houses right on the beach in Santa Monica that I never would have gotten the opportunity to see otherwise. I drank free wine and ate free gourmet hors' d'oeuvres and got a millionaires view of the ocean. Pretty sweet.
- The annual softball fundraiser. I like to go all out and get money and pay to be a player and buy raffle tickets and such, but if you don't want to do that, $20 will get you a seat at a game, the best frickin' tacos ever (I should mention this is UNLIMITED tacos. Unlimited tacos!), unlimited drinks and dessert, and tons of cute dogs to fawn over.
- You can take the dogs to training classes (free to you) and learn mad skillz. These could be used for a dog you already have, a future dog, or maybe to embellish your resume to get that dog walking gig in Beverly Hills.
- New friends! Tired of meeting people at bars? Meeting people who are volunteering automatically pushes you past that awkward "I don't know anything about you, you could be a serial killer" phase, and into the slightly less awkward and much less dangerous,"Hey, I don't know much about you, but I know you're out doing good in the world, and you're working for a cause that we both believe in" phase. I'm not saying serial killers don't volunteer, or that everyone you meet will be well-adjusted. The bat-shit crazy are out and about too. I'm just saying you're chances are better.
And that's just one organization. Los Angeles is full of places to volunteer! Find something you're interested in, and go donate your time to a worthy cause. You will get so much more out of it than you put into it.
For more information on k9 Connection, click here.
For more information about volunteering, and finding a good match for you, try Volunteer Match or Idealist.
And to see what my fav organization is all about, watch this: