Volunteering makes for a great way to spend free time

Ashley Hunt

Students in the Ames area during the summer have probably noticed the decrease of hustle and bustle happening during the hot summer months.

Student population decreases dramatically, creating an almost ghost town on campus and campustown.

Naturally, with the lack of people living in the area, as well as the lack of the heavy homework load students might be burdened with during the fall and spring semesters, students living in Ames during the summer months may find themselves with more free time on hand than usual.

Now the question is, what can students do with all the extra free time?

Make a difference.

The Ames and Story County areas have plenty to offer in forms of volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to keep students from getting bored during the summer, as well as a great way to feel good about yourself and to do something for the greater good.

One popular volunteer opportunity in Story County is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa program.

“Bigs” can spend as little as a few hours a couple times a month, or as much time as their schedule allows, with their “Little.”

Making a difference in a child can be as simple as sitting down and spending time with them. From crafts to video games to going to the park or a museum, there are a variety of activities both the “Big” and the “Little” can enjoy.

The program looks for both big brothers and big sisters, but is usually low on male volunteers. According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa website, more than 70 percent of the children waiting for a “Big” are boys.

To sign up, fill out an application online. You will also need to provide references, take part in an interview and go through a background check.

For more information contact Megan Bradke, membership and marketing coordinator, at [email protected].

Other volunteer opportunities found close to home are offered at the Ames Public Library. One position is an adult literacy tutor. 

These tutors are asked to meet with students during the day, once a week for 30 minutes or more.

The Conversations in English Program also uses volunteers. This is a session hosted each Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. Volunteers will converse with people whose first language is not English. The goal of this program is to help participants improve their English in a conversational, casual and fun way.

There are also several summer programs offered at the Ames Public Library to students of a variety of ages. Volunteers for these programs can work just once a week or multiple times, depending on the volunteer’s availability.

The Ames Public Library has other volunteer opportunities as well. For more information, send an email to [email protected].

During the warm summer months, students may be looking for more ways to spend time outside. There are several volunteer programs that will allow students to make a difference while being able to enjoy the summer weather at the same time.

Ames School Garden Projects start with students at local schools but continue to flourish with help from community members.

Two gardens — the Kate Mitchell Garden and the Sawyer Community Garden — are in need of volunteers to help take care of the garden during the dry summer months.

The goal of the Ames School Garden Projects is to give children the opportunity for hands-on learning and to instill healthy and active habits in children at an early age.

To get involved, fill out an application online.

Another program in the Ames area that offers a variety of volunteer opportunities is the Ames Repair and Care program. This program aims to help residents of Ames who are not able to maintain the homes due to age, disability or lack of resources.

Volunteers for this program help provide assistance to home owners in need. Some activities that a volunteer would take part in are removing yard debris, trimming trees, mowing grass and painting.

More information regarding this program can be found by contacting Shellie Orngard, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Story County at [email protected], or Jeff Benson of the planning and housing department for the city of Ames at [email protected].

The Ames and Story County areas provide many more volunteer opportunities than just the ones discussed previously. There is a program for any and every interest, hobby and person.

So instead of spending your free time this summer only lounging by the pool or sitting inside watching Netflix, get out and find a program that interests you.

Have some fun and make a difference.