Richmond is a mid-sized, diverse city in central Virginia. As such, the city and the surrounding area have many needs and many opportunities for volunteers who want to help. Whether your interests are the environment, animals, children, the elderly, the homeless, or the hungry, Richmond has many options. In this article, I will focus on three charitable groups in Richmond: CARITAS (homelessness), BARK (dog rescue), and Feed More (hunger).
CARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond Involved To Assure Shelter) is an organization that partners with faith communities in the Richmond metropolitan areas to provide shelter for homeless people. The program brings groups of homeless people to a hosting faith community for 1 or 2 weeks. The people stay at the faith community (often in a recreation hall or other building) and the members of the congregation volunteer in many ways while they are there. Members cook breakfast and dinner and prepare bag lunches every day. They also have the opportunity to eat with the people, to provide entertainment (games, movies, etc.), to tutor and to otherwise be involved with the people staying there. During each night, members of the faith community sleep in the building with the guests. During the day, CARITAS transports the group back into the Richmond area for them to work or go to school. CARITAS also provides other services to Richmond’s homeless population, and they have many opportunities for people to serve outside of the faith communities.
BARK (Bandit’s Adoption & Rescue of K-9s) is one of many organizations in the Richmond area that strives to reduce the number of homeless pets–specifically dogs. BARK is 100% volunteer run–there are no paid staff members. This means that BARK relies on volunteers for everything from walking dogs and cleaning cages at “the farm” (where many dogs are temporarily housed) to providing a foster home to help stray dogs learn to become good pets. People often ask if it is hard to give up a foster dog once an adopter has been found, and the answer is “Of course!” Fostering dogs means opening your heart to them and teaching them how to be a good pet. However, the knowledge that you are helping many animals find homes that otherwise would have been euthanized helps to overcome the feelings of sadness. You can find BARK at the Pet Smart in Short Pump every weekend.
FeedMore is an umbrella organization for three organizations that deal with hunger in the Richmond area: the Central Virginia Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, and the Community Kitchen. The Central Virginia Food Bank runs many food drives, and they are always looking for donations from groups and individuals. They also are in need of people to help sort the food in the warehouse. Meals on Wheels delivers meals to shut-ins who have difficulty getting food on their own. As our population ages, more people are in need of their services, which means more deliveries need to be made. The Community Kitchen prepares and packages meals for delivery throughout the metropolitan area (through distribution points such as “Kids Cafe”). They need help with both preparation and delivery of the food.
The Richmond Metropolitan area has around 1 million people, and many of them are in need of help, as are many of the animals and natural resources in the area. The 3 organizations above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to volunteering in Richmond.