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Get Up, Help Out: Volunteer Opportunities For Those Who Want to Give Back

From arts organizations to social service groups, everyone needs a hand

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OK, so you've got some extra time on your hands. You could A) Throw yourself a pity party and do some comfort eating; B) Set out on a quest to fully explore Boise's bar scene; C) Construct a giant papier mache duck on your patio or D) Actually do something useful that benefits others.

The Treasure Valley is full of organizations that play important roles in the community and that could use a little extra help. And as budgets are cut thanks to the economic downturn, the need for volunteers to step up is even greater. From arts organizations that need help caring for their patrons to government agencies that need a hand maintaining public parks to nonprofits that build affordable housing, there's a wide variety of needs that need to be met by a wide variety of people.

As part of our effort to help out, Boise Weekly is reviving our Volunteer Guide, offering some direction for individuals or groups that want to get involved in the community. Below is a list of organizations that routinely work with volunteers, so peruse the options, find something of interest and get off your butt.

A.L.P.H.A.

Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS is the driving force behind the push for more education about HIV and AIDS, as well other sexually transmitted diseases, in the Treasure Valley. But in order for the group to do everything it can, volunteers are needed to do a little bit of everything and anything, from office work to staffing outreach events. New volunteer orientation is held every other Thursday.

Contact: Kavin Dehner, kavin.dehner@alphaidaho.org

WEBSITE: alphaidaho.org

PHONE: 208-424-7799

Boise Art Museum

Beauty takes work, and that includes the kind that fills Boise Art Museum. It takes a small army of volunteers to keep the public art museum open and able to share fine art with the masses. Volunteers greet patrons, take admission, work the museum store and provide information. They also work in the administrative office and help with programs.

The museum's largest fundraiser of the year, Art in the Park, requires hundreds of volunteers to help with every aspect of the event, from setting up to final accounting. Check BAM's website and request a volunteer application for all positions.

Contact: Visitors' Services, Shauna, Ext. 34, shauna@boiseartmuseum.org; Office, Brenda, Ext. 10, brenda@boiseartmuseum.org; Education, Drew, Ext. 36, drew@boiseartmuseum.org; Art in the Park, Jeni, Ext. 14, aip@boiseartmuseum.org

Website: boiseartmuseum.org

Phone: 208-345-8330

Boise Bicycle Project

Boise is a bike-friendly sort of place, and few organizations are more instrumental in fostering that kind of environment than the Boise Bicycle Project. This community-driven group works to make sure everyone has access to a bike, regardless of income or background.

BBP volunteers help fix up donated bikes, teach others how to take care of their own bikes, lead programs to help kids learn safe biking, assist during community bike drives and help out at numerous events throughout the year. Volunteers just need to have a love of bikes and, more importantly, the community.

Contact: Jimmy Hallyburton, boisebicycleproject@gmail.com

Website: boisebicycleproject.org

Phone: 208-429-6520

Boise Life

This online volunteer center serves as a clearinghouse for local groups who need volunteers, matching them with individuals who want to help in the community. The group recently opened a volunteer center at 1020 W. Main St. in Boise to further the effort.

Website: boiselife.ning.com

Boise Rec Fest

With one successful year under its belt, the Boise Rec Fest is gearing up for an even bigger celebration of everything outdoors. Once again, the weekend festival will take over Ann Morrison Park June 25-26, with booths, activities, lectures, games, music and food for all.

Volunteers are needed to help with about every aspect of the event, from working the information and merchandise booths to providing security to running concessions, managing the entertainment, helping exhibitors and running recreational events. Check out the Rec Fest website and click on the "volunteer" button to register.

Contact: volunteer@boiserecfest.com

Website: boiserecfest.com

Phone: 208-639-0281

Boise River Volunteers

It's easy to take a resource like the Boise River for granted--it's always there for us to enjoy, to float, to fish. But without a little consideration, the river can suffer from being loved a little too much. The Boise River Volunteers have taken up the mantle to keep the river clean during the busy summer floating season by conducting weekly clean-up floats to pick up trash and other things left in or near the river--they even help a stranded boater or two on occasion. Anyone interested in joining the effort can contact the group via its website and click on the contact link.

Contact: Chris Crawford

Website: riverhelpers.com

Boise Watershed

The term "waste water treatment" doesn't necessarily conjure happy visions, but the situation is a bit different at Boise's WaterShed. It's about more than waste water at the educational center, where the public can learn about conservation.

The WaterShed staff is looking for volunteers to join the Green Teen Program--a summer program with indoor and outdoor projects throughout the season. Adult and college-aged volunteers are also needed to help with the numerous group field trips that take advantage of the interactive programs at WaterShed.

Contact: Cindy Busche, boisewatershed@cityofboise.org

Website: bee.cityofboise.org/WaterShed/Home/index.aspx

Phone: 208-608-7300

Boys and Girls Club

The three Boys and Girls clubs in Ada County offer a positive and fun place where kids of all ages spend time hanging out, participating in activities, playing sports or games, or working with staff.

Volunteers are needed to help the nonprofit forward its mission by working directly with the kids and helping staff members. Volunteers are often called upon to help lead field trips, assist with lunch and snack times, and give a little one-on-one time to club members who need some attention.

Volunteer orientation is held every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Garden City location, but contact each club to find out its specific needs and schedule. Volunteers can get an application form on the website.

Contact: Ashlea Jackson, ashlea@adaclubs.org; or Armando Silva, armando@adaclubs.org

Website: mybgclub.org

Phone: Volunteer Coordinator, 208-639-3170; Garden City club, 208-321-9157; Meridian club, 208-888-5392

City of Boise Parks and Recreation

With budgets for city departments getting ever tighter, departments like Parks and Recreation are in more need of volunteers than ever before. Last year alone, 62,000 hours of volunteer labor was donated, doing the work of 26 full-time employees.

The majority of the work at Parks and Rec is physical labor, doing projects at the numerous parks and public areas ranging from weeding and painting to building picnic tables and planting trees.

The department hosts several major projects each year, including clean-ups of the Boise River and the Foothills and the relatively new Rake Our Parks event.

Volunteers are always needed to help with youth programs at the city's neighborhood centers, as well as with the Adventure Program, which helps disabled youth get involved in outdoor recreation.

Check the website for specific volunteer opportunities.

Contact: Jerry Pugh, jpugh@cityofboise.org

Website: cityofboise.org/Departments/Parks

Phone: 208-608-7617

The Community Center

The Community Center is Idaho's only facility that focuses on LGBT issues. Volunteers are needed to help staff the center, work on Diversity News, an LGBT-focused newspaper, sell ads for the newspaper, maintain the center's database and assist with various office duties. Volunteer orientation is from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

Contact: Rick Ramos, rick@tccidaho.org

Website: tccidaho.org

Phone: 208-863-7120

Eagle Bike Park

The foothills bordering Eagle are becoming a growing bastion for mountain bikers who cruise the variety of trails zigzagging the area. But those trails are the result of a lot of volunteer hours spent building and repairing. As those trails continue to grow, more volunteers are needed to roll up their sleeves and do some physical labor. To get on the volunteer list, email Nelson and check out the website.

Contact: Brad Nelson, bafvolunteers@gmail.com

Website: eaglebikepark.org

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