River Park, Louisville; Photo: flickrized

Bourbon and horses – that’s what I knew about Louisville before moving here (and I didn’t even really learn the bourbon part until I arrived).

In the last few months, I’ve explored the city’s excellent parks system, discovered for myself its “livability” (in 2008, the Conference of Mayors gave it first place in the annual City Livability Award competition), and tasted at least eight different bourbons.

I learned the metro area spans two states, contains a million people, has an international population whose growth is faster than that of the nation’s, and has many, many places to volunteer.

Refugees and International Community

Kentucky Refugee Ministries (where I volunteer) helps refugees settle in Louisville by providing ESL, job skills classes, and cultural orientation to adults and tutoring to students. After completing an application and the hour-long volunteer orientation, volunteers can choose from multiple opportunities.

The New Beginnings program matches volunteers with a newly arrived student and requires an hour’s commitment a week for one year. Daily adult ESL classes also need tutors to work with two to three students during class. If teaching English isn’t your thing, consider helping a citizen-to-be study for the citizenship exam.

The donations center needs volunteers to sort through donated household items, clothes and school supplies, and if you have a car, you could escort clients to doctor’s appointments. Whatever program you choose, KRM asks that volunteers be flexible.

Contact the volunteer coordinator at volunteer[at]kyrm[dot] org or 502-479-9180 x53. There is also an office in Lexington that can be reached at 859-226-5661.

Photo: cvconnell

Americana Community Center is located in south Louisville near much of the city’s immigrant population. Americana is a non-profit organization that offers clients a variety of services, including after-school activities, art, reading and sports programs for youth, and ESL and literacy classes for adults.

Americana most needs volunteers for its youth programs, which currently serve 150 children. For more information, contact Elizabeth Perkins at 502-366-7813, or by email at elizabeth[at]americanacc[dot]org.

Similar opportunities are available at the Arcadia Community Center.

Women and Children

The Center for Women and Families started serving victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence in 1912 as part of the YWCA. Now an independent non-profit, the Center provides clients shelter, counseling, financial literacy classes, therapy and support groups, and assistance in hospitals, courts and finding long-term, safe housing.

The Center seeks volunteers to be hospital, children’s or legal advocates, to help in the kitchen, provide English tutoring, assist with community outreach and special events, or help with administrative tasks in their main Louisville office.

The Center serves 11 counties in Kentucky and Indiana and has volunteer opportunities in both states. Potential volunteers must complete an application, interview with volunteer manager Janet Tinsely (502-581-7268 or janet[dot]tinsley[at]cwfempower[dot]org) and attend orientation.

Brooklawn Child and Family Services consists of a residential treatment center and a school for abused and neglected children. Brooklawn works with boys ages 5-18 and girls of 6-11.

Volunteer opportunities include tutoring a student, mentoring (a six-month weekly commitment), planning field trips or service projects, or helping at special events. Direct questions to Missy Fountain at mfountain[at]brooklawn[dot]net or call 502-515-0474.

Similar opportunities are available at Home of the Innocents and Maryhurst.

Animals and the Environment

Photo: outlier dogs

The Kentucky Humane Society is more than just a shelter; KHS promotes humane treatment and better care for animals by offering adoption services, boarding, doggie daycare, and behavioral training.

Volunteers are needed to help around the office, assist with community outreach (including pet photography at special events), and participate in care of the animals. Bathe, exercise, and assist with training – or, if you want to temporarily house a cat or dog, become a foster care parent. The most intense program, Canine Coaches, needs volunteers to walk dogs three times a day.

Contact the Volunteer Manager, Jennifer Clark, at 502-515-3145 or jclark[at]kyhumane[dot]org.

Brightside is both a non-profit and a government agency, with Louisville Metro government covering administrative costs and private donations paying for programs. Brightside keeps Louisville “clean and green” and needs volunteers to participate in litter pick-up, special events, and administrative tasks.

This summer, they will need Green Thumb volunteers to help with landscaping. Brightside also seeks volunteers willing to be trained to represent the organization at fairs. For more information, call Mary Byrne at 502-574-2613 or email her at mary[dot]byrne[at]louisvilleky[dot]gov.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy – The guy who designed New York City’s Central Park? He designed Louisville’s parks systems (his name, by the way, is Frederick Law Olmsted). The Olmsted Parks Conservancy, formed in 1989, works to preserve the parks and parkways that connect them.

Individuals can volunteer for Saturday morning Champion Park events or during the week to work with the Restoration Team. Those who like parks but aren’t fans of dirt can train as Park Stewards to help with volunteer and outreach events.

Contact Sarah Wolff at 502-456-8125 or sarah[dot]wolff[at]olmstedparks[dot]org.

Similar opportunities are available at Shamrock Foundation, Louisville Metro Animal Services, and Animal Care Society.

Community Connection:

Catch some local Louisville culture- Matador member catorce gives you the lowdown on the Kentucky Derby in this blog post.