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How Can You Help? April is National Volunteer Month

By Alicia Dziak

Need a surefire way to beat the cabin fever that has set in this winter? Try volunteering! With so many local opportunities to spread the love, finding a place to spend your free time and make a difference is easy and fun.

Do you like to spend time outdoors and enjoy all the parks and trails this area has to offer? Consider volunteering somewhere that can help you enjoy them even more.

The Western New York Mountain Biking Association (WNYMBA) holds regular volunteer workdays to build and maintain local biking trails. For more information, visit www.wnymba.org.

In addition, the new Ellicottville-Great Valley Trail, an all-season recreation trail for hikers and other non-motorized vehicles, is in the works, and the project leaders are looking for volunteers to share their time and talents. For more information, like them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EVLtrail) or contact Jennie Acklin at (716) 699-4062.

Friends of Allegany State Park (FOASP) accepts members of all ages, and what better way to get outside and help clean up and beautify this natural wonder? FOASP meets the first Saturday each month May through October and works on projects such as painting cabins, clearing brush and picking up litter around the park. Like their Facebook page to get details of upcoming events (www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAlleganyStatePark).

If helping those in need is a priority to you, consider volunteering at a local food pantry, which need many volunteers to shop for, sort and stock food, as well as organize special meals for holidays. For a listing of local food pantries, visit www.foodpantries.org.

Fellowship Ministries (www.fellowshiphill.org) offers two Trading Posts, at 38 Franklin St. in Springville, and at 11 Washington St. in Cattaraugus, where those in need can receive food, clothing, infant items, household items, $5 haircuts and more. The Trading Posts are 100 percent volunteer staffed and are always looking for volunteers to help in many areas ranging from retail display and handyman services, to drivers for food pickup, cleaning and cooking instruction. For more information, visit www.fellowshiphill.org.

Nursing homes and various healthcare facilities are great places to share your time and talent, and bring a smile to residents’ and patients’ faces. Call the human resources or activities departments of your local facility to learn about opportunities.

How about passing on your love of sports to a whole new group of kids? This time of year, youth sports organizations are looking for volunteers to coach baseball, softball and soccer, as well as other spring and summer sports. Check with your local youth sports organization to see how you can help.

Additionally, school parent-teacher organizations often need volunteers to help with various school events in April and throughout the year. Even if you only have a couple hours to spare, setting up for events, cashing people out at a plant sale or manning a station at field day are great ways to be involved and also to meet other parents.  Contact your local PTA or PTO to see what opportunities are available in your town.

Do you love animals? Volunteering for a pet rescue organization might be a good choice. Pet rescues regularly look for volunteers to assist in a variety of ways. Empire Rescue (EARS) in Salamanca looks for volunteers to transport animals to appointments or the groomer, and is always in need of people to do a bag or two of laundry each week and then bring it back to them. Volunteers are also needed to wash and sanitize the pet dishes. In addition, purchased or homemade donations, for items such as dog treats and toys, are always accepted. If interested, contact empirerescue@gmail.com.

Don’t see anything here that sounds like a good fit? Choose your favorite type of organization and do some research. Chances are, you’ll be able to find an opportunity that fits your interests and schedule. Many organizations have volunteer-run boards, and special events or projects throughout the year that require volunteers in order to be successful.

However you can help, remember that even an hour of your time makes a difference. Make it a group effort or go it alone — you won’t regret setting time aside to help make the world a better place.

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