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13 April . 2024

Volunteering in the Cape Fear Region

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Indeed, there is something about helping others that simply comes back to one in measurable and immeasurable ways. 

Volunteering keeps you active and engaged; it expands your social network; it can teach you new skills and provide you with purpose.  There just isn’t a downside.

For people who are moving to a new community, volunteering provides a way to connect with others and make new friends.

Looking for a job?  Volunteer with a nonprofit that offers you a chance to strut your stuff – allowing you the opportunity to both establish credibility while networking.

Retired?  Research from the National Institute on Aging and the Mayo Clinic indicates older adults with an active lifestyle, including meaningful volunteer work, are happier, as their sense of purpose contributes to overall life satisfaction.

Indeed, taking all these potential benefits together, volunteering contributes to a longer lifespan, as one’s happiness, health and sense of purpose are all linked to living longer. 

So maybe volunteering is downright selfish?!

Here in the Cape Fear Region, there are a several valuable places to start where one can find the volunteer opportunity that best suits available time, interests and capacities.

Share Cape Fear is a website administered by United Way of the Cape Fear Area. Here you can search among area nonprofits, filtered by who it helps (families, children, the environment, or animals, for example), what it provides (education, healthcare, housing, etc.), or causes (the list is comprehensive).  You can also explore specific and current volunteer needs and recurring opportunities. 

The Harrelson Center is another gem for volunteers in the Wilmington area.  What was the former New Hanover County Jail, is now a campus for some 40-plus humanitarian nonprofits.   Tours of the Harrelson Center are offered twice a month so you can learn more about the individual nonprofits.  It’s a challenge to leave that tour without finding opportunities to plug in.

The Cape Fear Volunteer Center matches agencies with volunteers for service throughout the region. CFVC has long managed the area’s Big Buddy program.  But, CFVC also matches individuals with volunteers willing to assist with such tasks as a ride to the doctor, help with a one-time lawn need or helping someone who may be downsizing and doesn't have the physical ability to box things up. CFVC always needs mentors and tutors for children, as well as handymen, cookie bakers, transporters and organizers of all kinds. Register your interest on their website.  

Individual nonprofits are also always eager for volunteers. Here is just a small sampling of opportunities:

If you’re interested in learning more about Wilmington and its history, the Historic Wilmington Foundation is a great place to start.  They always need volunteers in their Legacy Architectural Salvage which rescues architectural elements from our area’s abundant old homes and buildings that are being rehabbed and restored. 

NourishNC relies on volunteers to fill backpacks with food so our community’s children never go hungry.

The Good Shepherd Center, Wilmington’s shelter for the homeless, offers a variety of opportunities to serve.

Mother Hubbards Cupboard operates its food pantry entirely with volunteer labor to distribute food on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The regional Food Bank also relies heavily on volunteers to sort foods for delivery.

WARM, or Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, repairs, rebuilds and makes accessible homes  for low-income homeowners many of whom are elderly, disabled, or veterans.

The Cape Fear Literacy Council provides programs for adult learners, and English as a second language, with training for all volunteers.

Canines for Service provides dogs for military veterans, therapy and service programs.

Kids Making It teaches young people woodworking skills and provides both apprenticeship and skilled trades opportunities.  Volunteers with woodworking skills are always welcome.

This is just a sampling of the opportunities to meaningfully engage in the Cape Fear region. Find you place to plug in and in so doing, know you’re helping others and yourself in the good-deed-doing.