Tennesseans have a long history of giving back. The state earned its nickname as “The Volunteer State” thanks to its overwhelming response to the call for volunteers in the War of 1812.
That same giving spirit is alive today among Tennessee’s residents. In 2014, 1.26 million volunteers contributed $3.1 billion of service in Tennessee, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Why not join the state’s robust corps of volunteers? Here are 10 volunteering opportunities in Tennessee where you can help make your community a better place to live, work and play.
Zoos and Aquariums
Like spending time with furry — or scaly — friends? Serve at one of Tennessee’s zoos or aquariums in roles that include docents, divers and zookeeper assistants. Check with the zoos in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville as well as the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga for opportunities.
Food Banks and Pantries
Tennessee’s many food banks and pantries need more than just donations. They also need assistance distributing nutritious food to people in need. The food bank nearest you will direct you to a community-based feeding program where you can be of assistance. To find an opportunity near you, start with Feeding America.
Parks and Outdoors
If being outdoors is your preference, volunteer at a state or municipal park like Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport or Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. You might also consider becoming a volunteer naturalist, educating the public about flora, fauna and conservation. Learn more at the Tennessee Naturalist.
Helping people learn to read will open a world of possibilities for everyone. Put your skills to use through Raise Your Hand Tennessee or at another local literacy and tutoring program. Check with libraries and school districts in your area for opportunities.
Animal shelters and rescue groups are always on the lookout for volunteers to help clean up, walk dogs or even foster animals until permanent homes are found. Find a local group at Pet Finder.
Want to get involved in your community? Learn more about becoming a volunteer.
Home Building and Restoration
Prefer working with your hands? Build low-income housing through programs like Habitat for Humanity or look for a local program that rehabs or retrofits homes for disabled veterans or residents.
Meal Delivery Programs
Help homebound seniors eat a warm, healthy meal by volunteering as a delivery driver. Many communities have “meals on wheels” programs and need regular drivers. Locate your local office of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability to find a senior nutrition program that needs volunteers.
Youth Mentoring and Tutoring
Help at-risk kids get a head start at success through a program like Big Brothers, Big Sisters or look for a program unique to your community and skills. For example, the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville needs volunteer music instructors to teach low-income children to play instruments.
Adult and youth volunteers are always needed at hospitals. From working reception to operating a beverage cart to coloring with children, there are a variety of roles for compassionate Tennessee volunteers.
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, consider the Tennessee Natural History Museum Visitor Center in Gray where volunteers dig, clean and reassemble fossils. If you’ve owned and operated your own business, mentor a budding entrepreneur through the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), which has chapters across Tennessee.
Not sure which of these volunteering opportunities in Tennessee is right for you? Visit VolunteerMatch or call 211 to identify needs in your community.