Good deeds: Four Ways You and Your Family Can Volunteer locally

By Evan Hofsess

The holidays are a time to reflect on how thankful you are for the things you have in your life. It is also a time to care for others in your family and community. Volunteering can be fulfilling and fun. Dedicating your time as a volunteer not only helps you make friends and boost your social skills, but it can also satisfy a pressing need in your community. Volunteering is a great way to connect with your community and to make it a better place. It takes a lot of time and dedication, but in the end it is worth the effort. Here are four ways you and your family can volunteer at places in need. 

Monmouth County SPCA

The Monmouth County SPCA shelter, located in Eatontown, is one of the best local animal shelters. According to the MCSPCA website, it was founded in 1945 to protect and care for all animals in Monmouth County. There are many opportunities to help the animals and the staff there, including cats, dogs, bunnies, and other small pets.  

Even though you have to be at least 18 years old to volunteer in the shelter,  there are other ways you can give your time. You can foster dogs or cats, which is taking the animal home with you to be cared for and socialized until they are ready to be adopted. My family has been fostering newborn kittens for 20 years for various shelters. 

If fostering an animal is not allowed by your parents, the shelter always takes donations of food, pet toys, and bedding supplies.  Maybe you and your friends could collect items to donate. Visit https://www.monmouthcountyspca.org/ for more information. 

Photo courtesy of the Hofsess family.

Bradley Food Pantry

You probably have heard of this volunteer opportunity but if you didn’t, the Bradley Food Pantry was founded in 1982 helping people in need by supplying food. It serves people in Bradley Beach, Avon-By-The-Sea, Neptune, Neptune City, Lake Como, Belmar, Ocean Grove, and Ocean Township. It gets food from donations, and people donating funds. They usually spend $40,000 dollars a year to help people in need, so they are always looking for donations. 

To get a spot to volunteer, ask Mrs. Zylinski. She has to set up a date and you have to ask her the time you want to volunteer. You will probably do it with a group of three or more. You will help people bring up food from the basement, unwrap packaged food and more.  

You also can pick a date to make sandwiches and other food to give to them. This is actually really easy to do. You can just pick a date to make any sandwich at home (ham and cheese, grilled cheese, tuna, etc.) and make a lot for them. Then, just hand the sandwiches to the people working in the back so they can store and hand out your sandwiches. 

The food pantry is open from 10 am to 12 pm Monday through Friday. On Thursdays, it is open 6 pm to 7pm. You can be any age to volunteer. Visit http://www.bradleyfoodpantry.org/ for more information. 

Photo courtesy of the Bradley Food Pantry.

Beach Cleanup 

The Beach Cleanup is pretty self explanatory. The Beach Cleanup has tons of locations to volunteer. It is spread across Monmouth, Ocean, Cape May, Atlantic, Essex, and Bergen County. There are lots of towns and cities where you can help our beaches in NJ. Go to the website to see the dates to register and volunteer. Visit this link to see all of the locations: https://www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=aboutbeachsweeps

To volunteer, you have to be pre-registered and volunteers have to complete registration individually and electronically. If you are under 18, your parents would have to sign the waiver for you. Also, groups of 2-3 are ideal and if you are volunteering individually, then they will not pair you up with other volunteers. To fill out registration go to https://www.cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=153, select a location, then fill out the form to schedule your time. 

Now, during the pandemic, the requirements for this volunteer position is to wear a mask at all times, and you might have to get your temperature checked. You have to be 6 feet apart at all times, and you will have to arrive at your selected arrival time (9 am to 10 am). 

Organizers will supply you with trash bags, recycling bags, data cards, and pencils so that you can record data about your finds.

For the Beach Cleanup organization, there is a plan your own section opportunity. This means you can plan and organize your own beach sweep at any date you want! First pick a body of water and beach you want to help and make your own materials that will contribute to your beach sweep. Then, seek permission to go onto that body of water or beach so you can actually clean up that beach. If it is a public place of land, ask the local country or state government to access it. If it is private, ask that property landowner to access it. Next, if you need supplies or materials, ask for donations or funds. You can put up posters if you don’t know anyone that will support you. After, plan a time that you or all of your volunteers can show up, usually about 30 minutes before. In this 30 minutes, you will tell your volunteers what to do and give them supplies. Lastly, record your results on data cards and submit it to an organization that collects it such as https://oceanconservancy.org/.

Photo courtesy of Clean Ocean Action.

Environmental Shade Tree Commission

The Environmental Shade Tree Commission works to ensure trees and other plants stay protected and preserved for human benefits. They also plant as many trees as possible within Asbury Park for current and future residents who live there. 

To get involved, all you have to do is sign up at the ESTC website which is linked here: https://www.cityofasburypark.com/186/Environmental-Shade-Tree-Commission-ESTC

Also, Bradley Beach just formed its own shade tree commission. So, we will get more information in the future for more volunteer opportunities. 

The Asbury Park Shade Tree Commission created a heart-shaped garden to honor pets located in Kennedy Park on Lake Avenue in Asbury Park. 

Photo courtesy of The Asbury Park Shade Tree Commission.

Dedicating your time to volunteering is so rewarding and a great way to give back to the community. Please drop a note in the comments if you know of any other local volunteer opportunities.

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