Community service is a great way to help others, as well give you valuable skills and experiences. There are a lot of ways to get involved in community service, and choosing the best place to volunteer your time can be difficult.
Our guide gives examples of some of the top places to do community service, as well as steps to help you decide which place is best for you.
What Is Community Service and Why Should You Participate in It?
Community service is work done by a person or group of people that benefits others. It is often done near the area where you live, so your own community reaps the benefits of your work. You do not get paid to do community service, but you can include your experience on your resume and college applications.
There are many benefits to participating in community service; some of the most common are listed below:
- Gives you an opportunity to help others
- Helps you gain experience and new skills
- Helps improve your community
- Chance to make new friends
- Can cause personal growth
How Can You Decide Where to Do Community Service?
There is no community service location or activity that is "best" for everyone. You should decide where to perform community service based on your interests and skills, as well as your community's demand for volunteers. Ask yourself the following questions:
What Do I Enjoy Doing?
Do you like working with kids? You may want to consider volunteering at a school. Are you an animal lover? Maybe a local shelter is the best place for your community service. Doing something you like will make your community service more enjoyable, and make it more likely for you to continue volunteering.
What Kind of Career Do I Want?
It's not a requirement, but if your community service helps you get skills needed for future jobs, that's an added bonus that will give you extra motivation as you volunteer. For example, if you want to be a doctor, you may consider doing community service at a hospital or nursing home.
Which Problems Do I Want to Help Solve?
Are you concerned about the environment? Animal cruelty? Education standards? Chances are you'll be able to find a community service project related to an issue you care about.
Which Places in My Community Are Important to Me?
When I was a teenager, I chose to do community service at my local library because I had spent many afternoons there while growing up. Participating in the library's summer reading program as a child had led to my love of reading, so when I got older, I felt good about volunteering for the program and helping other kids learn to love books. If there is a particular place in your community that's important to you, whether it's a park you played at as a child or the nursing home where your grandfather lives, performing community service there lets you show your gratitude and appreciation.
Where Can You Find Ways to Participate in Community Service?Your School
If you are a student, see if your school has any clubs for people interested in performing community service; many highs schools have a volunteering organization or something similar.
Your Community Center
This is wherever your community posts notices and information. It could be at a town hall, community meeting place, or on your town's website. In addition to other information about your community, people and places looking for volunteers will often post notices here.
Places Where You'd Like to Volunteer
If you have a specific place where you'd like to perform community service, such as a nursing home or animal shelter, contact them and ask if they take volunteers.
Sometimes a simple internet search can get you numerous volunteer opportunities. Search "community service ideas near [your town]" and see what comes up.
The 9 Best Places to Do Community Service
Below is a list of the most common places to perform community service. Each place has a brief description, examples of work you might perform as a volunteer and suggestions for the types of people who might be most interested in performing community service there.
Hospitals are often in need of volunteers for a variety of activities, and while you probably won't start off with a lot of responsibility, if you volunteer at the same hospital for an extended period of time, you will likely be given more duties that you may be able to tailor to your interests.
Examples of work: Delivering gifts to patients, interacting and playing with young patients, stocking medical supplies, and transporting patients to different rooms.
Good for people who: are considering a career in the medical field, enjoy fast-paced work, and aren't squeamish around illness.
Schools are one of the most popular places to perform community service, and many are in frequent need of volunteers. You can volunteer at your own school, a school you used to attend, or a different school.
Examples of work: Tutoring students, chaperoning events, creating school murals, and supervising after-school programs.
Good for people who: like working with children or teenagers, are creative, enjoy teaching, or are considering a career in education.
Animal shelters often have small budgets and a large number of animals who need to find homes, requiring many of them to need volunteers so that they can maximize the number of pets they care for.
Examples of work: Feeding animals, cleaning cages, providing basic veterinary care, walking dogs, and interviewing potential owners.
Good for people who: enjoy spending time with animals or are considering a career in animal care.
Many nursing homes and retirement communities rely on volunteers to keep residents active and organize fun events.
Examples of work: Reading to or interacting with residents, hosting events like dances and bingo nights, and assisting residents with daily activities.
Good for people who: enjoy spending time with senior citizens, are considering a career in health care, or have an outgoing personality.
Food banks, also known as soup kitchens or food depositories, are places where people can donate food that is then given to homeless or low-income people. Food banks provide several billion meals a year, and they rely on volunteers to continue their work reducing hunger. Some also grow their own food and serve meals on-site.
Examples of work: Sorting food donations, organizing food drives, and delivering meals.
Good for people who: enjoy cooking or gardening, don't need a lot of interaction with their beneficiaries or enjoy helping the poor as a social issue.
Places of Worship
Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship regularly have opportunities for community service. These activities can be related to the religion and spreading its message, but other times they are completely secular.
Examples of work: Participating in mission trips, building houses, collecting donations, and teaching a religion class for children.
Good for people who: enjoy their place of worship's sense of community or are interested in spreading their religion's message.
Your local library probably has multiple options for community service. Demand tends to be particularly high in the summer when more families visit and participate in library programs.
Examples of work: Helping with a summer reading program, organizing donated books, helping with office work, and greeting and assisting patrons.
Good for people who: enjoy reading, like working with children, or are good at organizing things.
Museums often need volunteers, and they can be a great place to do community service because you can choose a museum that focuses on your interests, whether that's art, history, or something else.
Examples of work: Cataloging specimens, leading tours, greeting guests, and assisting at special events.
Good for people who: enjoy teaching, are interested in the museum's exhibits, or are considering a career in the museum's focus, such as natural history or art.
Parks or Natural Areas
Many natural areas are in need of volunteers as well. These places can range from a famous national park to the small playground down the street.
Examples of work: Planting trees, collecting trash, designing gardens, creating new walking paths, and collecting data on wildlife.
Good for people who: are interested in the environment or enjoy being outdoors.
Note that these ideas are just starting points—definitely think about your own interests, research the options, and then branch out to find a really good fit!
Thinking about doing community service in a foreign country? Read our guide on whether you should participate in a volunteer abroad program.
Do you want to know more about community service in general? Read our guide on what community service is, how it benefits you, and how to start getting involved.
Wondering how your community service can help you apply to college? We have a guide that explains how to write about your extracurriculars on college applications.
One of the single most important parts of your college application is what classes you choose to take in high school (in conjunction with how well you do in those classes). Our team of PrepScholar admissions experts have compiled their knowledge into this single guide to planning out your high school course schedule. We'll advise you on how to balance your schedule between regular and honors/AP/IB courses, how to choose your extracurriculars, and what classes you can't afford not to take.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.