Volunteering is more fun with a group, but before you try to start a group of your own, consider these growing Austin-area Meetups.
Meetup is the online platform that helps like-minded people gather, schedule events and stay in touch. It’s no wonder that there are a number of Meetup groups devoted to volunteering in Austin. Here are some of the most interesting we found.
Make a Difference Austin – 430 Members
One of the pillars of Make a Difference Austin is to go beyond just writing a check. They do that by facilitating volunteer drives for nonprofits that serve those in need, whether it be homeless teens, refugees or the elderly. “To go just beyond writing a check means to be out collecting items for whatever nonprofit we’re working with, to actually participate that way and to meet other like-minded people,” explained Marla Porter.
When the media was dominated by stories of a possible ban on Muslims entering the country, Make a Difference Austin decided to gather cards, cookies, flowers and other symbols of acceptance and take them to the North Austin Muslim Community Center. The center was expecting them, Porter said.
“We went and gave them our gifts and everybody sat around in a big circle for two hours talking about what freedom of religion means, and that diversity is what makes America great and we know they are not terrorists just because they are Muslim,” she recalled. “Tears were shed.”
Austin Acts of Kindness – 483 Members
This Meetup group doesn’t focus on any particular cause, but its organizers stressed there is great demand for volunteers to help both people and animals. The group meets each month on either weekday evenings or weekends and dedicates its time to creative projects and other volunteer opportunities. In the absence of other community projects, Austin Acts of Kindness members participate in activities like crafting Valentine’s Day Cards for patients at the Dell Children’s Hospital.
We Serve Austin – Young Professionals – 968 Members
It’s tough for young professionals to stay engaged in volunteering around their busy schedules. Members of We Serve Austin – Young Professionals know all about that balancing act. The group’s founder, Clint Carrens, said many of its members have long histories in volunteering, through work and other demands make it tough to maintain a schedule. We Serve Austin provides weekly opportunities to both serve and have fun doing it.
“Many of the other volunteer groups focus on a particular kind of community service or even one particular non-profit organization, which is great for anyone who has a passion for that type of service,” said Carrens. “Our group takes a different approach, engaging in different projects addressing a host of causes and issues, which allows our members to discover the many different ways in which they can serve their community. Next month, the group will volunteer with the Austin Animal Center, Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Inside Books.
Open Architecture Austin – 72 Members
Groups like Open Architecture Austin are aimed at utilizing the specific skillsets of its members and leveraging them for social good. OA/A is part of a global nonprofit network called the Open Architecture Collaborative, which “advocates for design as right for all and not just a privilege for those who can traditionally afford those services.
One of the group’s organizers, Audrey Vilain, said, “Our approach to projects is different in that it aims to be inclusive and equitable by listening to the community and hearing voices that otherwise wouldn’t have been heard.” The group has an upcoming project with Community First! Village, an East Austin community that provides shelter and support for the homeless. Vilain said it would be a perfect entry point for new members because no prior design knowledge or architecture experience is required.
Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association – 67 Members
Just because Peace Corps volunteers return home doesn’t mean they’ve lost their love of service. The Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association is one way for those dedicated volunteers to continue giving back, this time right in their own backyards. The group hosts quarterly group service activities and organizes fundraisers to support Peace Corps volunteers currently out in the field so they can continue their work.
“We always welcome new members who are interested in learning more about serving in the Peace Corps and giving back to their communities,” said Vicky Pridgen, one of the group’s organizers. “It’s incredibly rewarding to spend time with others who believe in the importance of public service and cultural exchange.”
Save Barton Creek Crew – 712 Members
There is a surplus of hiking groups in the area, but what sets the Save Barton Creek Crew apart is its commitment to cleanup and educational work. Though the crew takes part in casual, educational and clean-up hikes, the actual hiking is only a part of the group’s mission. They also take part in trail building and maintenance, outreach to school children and invasive species removal.
The group also organizes guest speakers on issues pertaining to our local water resources. “Together, these events give members a well rounded understanding of water resources; experientially, intellectually, and through volunteerism,” said Angela Richter, the group’s executive director.