Volunteer Tom Dunlap shreds chicken that will used in a stir fry at the Preble Street Food Security Hub in South Portland. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The holidays are time when people think about ways to help others, maybe donate to a food drive or wrap presents for kids in need.

But if there’s one thing for certain these days, it’s that people need a help all year long. So that means the nonprofit organizations in Maine who rely on volunteers need help all year long, too.

If you’ve been considering becoming a volunteer, you might think beyond groups that need help at the holidays, when many others are offering a hand, to those that are serving your fellow Mainers year-round. Here are some organizations around Maine that can always use more volunteers.

PREBLE STREET

The Portland-area service agency Preble Street needs volunteers all year long, especially in the preparation and delivery of meals and the packaging of grocery boxes. Most days about 15 volunteers are preparing food at the organization’s Food Security Hub in South Portland, while other volunteers serve meals at soup kitchens at Florence House and Preble Street Teen Center in Portland. Volunteers also sort and organize donated items for people experiencing homelessness or who have been homeless recently, including gloves, boots, sleeping bags and underwear.

For most  opportunities, volunteers must be at least 13 years old if accompanied by an adult, at least 15 if volunteering alone. For more information, go to preblestreet.org.

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SNOW SHOVELING FOR SENIORS

The city of Portland is looking for volunteers for its Snow Shoveling for Seniors program. Volunteers are matched with an elderly neighbor, who lives in the same neighborhood. The volunteers are asked to shovel the walks, steps and sidewalks in front of the home after each storm all winter. So if you don’t mind shoveling a little extra snow, this is a really good chance to help someone who might otherwise be isolated during the long Maine winter. Volunteers are needed all over the city, but especially in North Deering, Deering Center, Rosemont, Nason’s Corner, Munjoy Hill and Riverton. Anyone interested in volunteering can email [email protected] or contact Linda Weare at [email protected] or 207-541-6620.

Marie Tillson, left and Dianne Ellis, volunteers with Maine Needs, sort through donations in March.

MAINE NEEDS

Maine Needs is a volunteer-run organization based in Portland that collects and donates items to a wide range of Mainers in need, including those starting their lives over after escaping domestic abuse or coming to this country to seek asylum.  Volunteers sort donations, organize the space, assemble care package kits and make deliveries. Anyone is welcome to help – including parents and children who want to come together – and training is provided on site. Opportunities are available in three-hour shifts all year round at the donation center on Forest Avenue in Portland. For more information and to sign up, go to maineneeds.org/volunteer.

SOUTHERN MAINE AGENCY ON AGING

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging uses volunteers in a variety of its programs, from Meals on Wheels to Medicare counseling. A few current volunteer opportunities include “phone pals” to chat on the phone with Meals on Wheels clients who might share some of your interests, people to help clients with their budgets and monthly expenses including with balancing checkbooks, and volunteers to help people over 70 maintain their cognitive, physical and emotional well-being while in the hospital. For more information, go to smaaa.org/volunteer. To apply for a position, call 207-396-6539 or email [email protected].

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GOOD SHEPHERD FOOD BANK

The Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn has volunteers who help inspect and sort salvaged food, pack emergency food boxes, and prep produce. The food bank’s Cooking Matters Maine program is in need of skilled volunteers to be culinary instructors, nutrition educators and class assistants. For more information, go to gsfb.org.

Good Shepherd also distributes food to a network of nearly 600 partner agencies around the state, who also need volunteers. To find one near you go to the Good Shepherd website and click the “Find Food” map at the bottom of the page.

Volunteers Tom Dunlap, left, and John Hayes shred chicken that will used in a stir fry at the Preble Street Food Security Hub in South Portland on Nov. 30 Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

CENTER FOR GRIEVING CHILDREN

Volunteers at the Center for Grieving Children provide loving peer support for grieving children, families and young adults across Maine. Volunteers commit to working for one year with the same support group, one night a week. Right now, the organization is looking for volunteers in the Sanford and Portland programs. There is also a need for volunteers interested in certifying their dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs to work with children and families.

Every volunteer completes a 30-hour training and enrollment for January training is now open. For more information, go to  cgcmaine.org/get-involved or email [email protected]

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MAKE-A-WISH MAINE

How cool would it be to grant wishes? Well, Make-A-Wish Maine is seeking volunteers to be wish granters, helping to make wishes come true for critically ill children around Maine. Wish granter volunteers meet with the Wish child and family members to help identify the child’s wish ideas – which could range from a new puppy to a room makeover to a big trip – then work with staff to help make it come true. Wish granters must be at least 21 years old, successfully complete a background check and attend position-specific training. The time commitment is 10-15 hours per wish, which can span six to 12 months. For more info and to apply, go to wish.org/maine/volunteer.

HOPE ACTS

Hope Acts is a Portland-based organization that helps asylum seekers and immigrants. It is currently looking for volunteers in the Asylum Seeker Assistance Program, to work one-on-one with asylum seekers, helping them meet basic needs and do paperwork, including work applications. Potential volunteers can visit the program to observe and get a better understanding of what’s required. To find out more and to fill out a form to start the volunteer process, go to hopeacts.org/volunteer. 

Furry friends need our help too. One way to do that is to foster a pet from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

ANIMAL REFUGE LEAGUE OF GREATER PORTLAND

Pets are people too (in the opinion of many, anyway), and they need help too. The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland is looking for foster families to provide temporary care and support to animals, before they are ready for adoption. The most commonly fostered animals are kittens, puppies, mother cats or dogs and their litters, as well as small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs. The Animal Refuge League provides all of the supplies. You’d be helping the animals but also learning what it’s like to care for a pet, in case you were thinking of adopting one. For more information, go to arlgp.org/volunteer/foster-program.

FOSTER GRANDPARENTS AND SENIOR COMPANIONS

Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions are federal programs organized in Maine by The Opportunity Alliance. The grandparent program allows volunteers 55 and over to read with children, support learning in schools or work with teachers. The senior companion program is for volunteers, also 55 over, who are interested in helping house-bound elders live independently in their own homes. Volunteers might give rides, do errands, take a walk or share a meal with the client. For more information, go to opportunityalliance.org/volunteer and click the program names near the bottom of the page. You can also call (207) 773-0202 or email [email protected]

Volunteer Michelle Bickel pulls a pair a boots from a box as she searches to fill a request at Maine Needs in March. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


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