Photo: snapr

When I moved to Las Vegas four years ago I expected a miserable existence. Living in an overcrowded city, surrounded by dead trees with scorpions waiting to sting me if I stepped outside my door would surely drive me crazy.

When I finally ventured outside my door I found more than dead trees and scorpions, which are actually kind of cute as long as you don’t pick them up. I discovered this diverse city is more than crowded roads and The Strip. It’s about living a full life, helping others, and loving the outdoors. And I found it by volunteering.

Women and Children

One of my favorite volunteer organizations is Safe Nest. Established in 1977, Safe Nest cares for abused women and children. Not only does it advocate for the abused, but emphasizes the eradication of abuse all together. Volunteering with the 24-hour hotline, assisting with counseling services, working in the shelter, or advocating in court are just a few ways volunteers can make a difference.

Kids in the shelter always need someone to hang out with and an extra car or pair of hands is always appreciated. I help out as an outreach coordinator at health fairs meant to raise awareness about Safe Nest’s mission.

If you don’t have time to volunteer you can always donate old clothes or furniture. It all goes to the women and children in the shelter. They even pick up the donations at your door.

For more information you can go to their website.

International Community

One organization that focuses on people from other countries is The African Community Center of Las Vegas, which helps relocated refugees find a home in Las Vegas. Volunteer opportunities include teaching teenagers how to play soccer in the local park or showing adults how to use a dishwasher for the first time.

Hanging out helps people feel less alone, and makes the transition easier by showing them first-hand about American culture. One of the great benefits of volunteering with refugees is that you learn something about yourself in the process. It’s a mutually rewarding experience that opens up a new culture and gives you a perspective most Americans don’t have unless they travel to a foreign country.

For more information you can call 702-836-3324 or go to their website.

Animals

Photo: RickC

For volunteers who want to help animals The National Wild Horses Association is a good option. Their goal is to ensure the safety of wild horses in Nevada. Run by volunteers, this organization advocates passionately for horses to stay wild in their environment without the trauma of chasing them down and relocating them.

The volunteers do this by raising donations as well as monitoring the land so there is enough water and food for the horses. Adoption is also available for those who can stable the horses. For more information, go to their website or call 702.452.5853.

Environment

Red Rock Conservation (where I volunteer as an assistant hike guide) is a protected area about an hour west of The Strip. It’s a favorite destination for climbers, scramblers, and bikers from all over to commune with the outdoors or inspect the awesome geology the mountains offer.

It’s run by the Bureau of Land Management; the goal is to teach both visitors and residents about Red Rock, conservation, and the geology of Las Vegas. A 13-mile loop allows everyone who enters to travel at their own speed (car, bike, foot) and admire the beauty of the mountain formations.

Photo: Trail Sherpa

Volunteers can help with kids’ programs, become an advocate for the environment by doing litter clean up and trail maintenance, lead hikes, or host lectures in the visitors’ center. For more information, visit their website.

Springs Preserve, another organization I’ve volunteered with, is an amazingly ‘green’ attraction that emphasizes clean living and conservation in the desert. It’s administered by the Las Vegas Water District and is considered the birthplace of Las Vegas, due to the springs that drew travelers here in the first place.

The 180-acre site has a restaurant, gallery, buildings, and wetlands (yes, there are wetlands in the middle of the desert). All are models of conservation and sustainable living. Springs Preserve even offers recycling classes.

Walking trails and a small animal sanctuary add something extra for outdoor lovers. You might even glimpse wild animals on the trail as you walk. The interactive gallery details the history of Las Vegas, and for volunteers who are sensitive to heat, this is an excellent option to stay cool.

Check out their website to learn about the different volunteer opportunities.

Community Connection:

If you’re not feeling all altruistic, or want to live it up after you’ve put in a few volunteer hours, check out the Top Dive Bars in Vegas.

And if your volunteering stint got you psyched to learn more about Las Vegas beyond the Strip, check out our Green Guide to Las Vegas.