New Year’s Resolutions: 21 Ways to Volunteer in and Around Philly

Want to start your year off on the right foot? Start here.

Gateway HorseWorks in Malvern. Photograph by Courtney Apple

You Do You

Start with your skills, talents and interests — then give them to others.

If You Like to Cook
Make all those hours you’ve spent watching Top Chef count.

Vetri Cooking Labs. Photograph courtesy of Stacey Wallace

Grab a group and prep a meal of your choosing in your own kitchen or at one of the two city Ronald McDonald House locations for the families of kids who are in nearby hospitals. You can also put those knife skills to work for the Sunday Love Project, which was started by Fishtowner Margaux Murphy a few years ago with the goal of feeding the homeless on the Sabbath. Now she’s serving meals — make sandwiches for delivery, or prep a sit-down dinner — six days a week. If you’ve got a little more time, consider leading one of 31 after-school cooking programs that Vetri Cooking Lab has set up for students in fourth grade and up in Philly and Camden.

If You Like Nature

Finally! A good reason to get your hands dirty

How does Southwest Philly’s Bartram’s Garden stay so well-manicured? Every other Saturday from April through October, volunteers — kids and adults — work with staffers to plant, weed, harvest, clean, and do some light carpentry. (Work 10 hours or more and you’ll score a free membership.) Of course, all the city’s neighborhood parks need TLC, so pay attention when you hear that it’s Love Your Park Week, held every spring and fall, then head to your neighborhood green space to pitch in. At Port Richmond’s and West Philly’s Greensgrow Farms, help is needed with planting and running the farm stand; they’re also looking for people with construction and videography skills. Fill out the form online with what you can do, and they’ll schedule your time.

If You Were the Teacher’s Pet

Show others why reading and writing and arithmetic are cool.

Photograph courtesy of Mighty Writers

Mighty Writers is successful because they make reading, writing and storytelling fun for school-age kids. Volunteer at a Philly or Camden location to tutor, lead a workshop, or give writing instruction. FYI, it’s not just kids that need help: At Fishtown’s Lutheran Settlement House, you can teach adults basic skills like math and reading. Or collect, organize and distribute books and supplies to Philly public schools by stopping by Jacoby Book Bank at MLK High School in West Oak Lane. (Tip: Their Amazon Wish List = easiest book drive ever.) Now, If you’ve been known to tickle the ivories, consider passing on your skills at Rock to the Future, a kids’ after-school program in Kensington and Germantown that teaches songwriting and has instrument lessons and voice coaching.

If You’re a Workout Fiend

This is how you can break a satisfying sweat.

Photograph courtesy of Back on My Feet

The premise of Back on My Feet is simple: Lead morning city runs for those who are homeless. The impact is huge: Goals are set, relationships are formed, and confidence is built. Girls on the Run has a similar concept, in that you’ll coach girls in third through eighth grade as they train for and complete a 5K. Should slow and steady be more your style, you can teach yoga, meditation or, really, any kind of om session at Ahimsa House in West Philly; classes are free to all.

If You Love Being an Auntie

Hugs for everyone!

You already know your dog is the biggest cuddle bug in the galaxy, so share some of that love with the patients at CHOP. The Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program at the hospital coordinates the training of you and your four-legged friend, then sets up the shifts. (Two guarantees: Kids will be instantly less anxious and way more smiley.) The Saturday Club on the Main Line — the nonprofit is 132 years old — now has a kids’ club where you can teach littles about acts of kindness firsthand by dropping off cookies to local fire stations or making care packages for children in the hospital.

Look at the Time!

A quick reference guide to fitting volunteering into your busy life

If You’ve Got One Hour
Try this: InKind Baking Project, Philadelphia
Here’s why: Bake for strangers in need, drop it off. Because everyone deserves a birthday cake.

If You’ve Got Two Hours
Try this: Cradles to Crayons, West Conshohocken
Here’s why: Stuff “KidPacks” with life’s essentials — winter jackets, baby wipes — in a two-hour shift.

If You’ve Got One Day
Try this: Gateway HorseWorks, Malvern
Here’s why: Those struggling with mental health issues spend time bonding with horses. Volunteers pitch in with chores around the farm.

If You’ve Got A Few Days
Try this: 100 Women Philadelphia, Center City
Here’s why: Members bring $100 along whenever this group meets (four times a year), then discuss which local nonprofit will get the money. You’ll make new friends, too.

If You’ve Got A Few Months
Try this: Free Library of Philadelphia, locations vary
Here’s why: Most library gigs — from teaching seniors tech to recording books on tape for the blind — require a few hours a week over two or three months.

If You’ve Got One Year
Try this: Penn Vet, University City
Here’s why: Foster a Penn Vet puppy when the little guy isn’t “working” at puppy school. (The cuddles are free.)

» See Also: Five Reasons it Feels Good to Do Good for Others

Published as “Know-It-All Guide: Heal the World” in the January 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.