Urban Volunteering: Washington, D.C.

by Marcella Prokop Jan 27, 2010
Feature Photo: monique / Photo above: NREL Solar Decathlon
Washington, D.C. may be the capital of the “free world,” but this small district is subject to more crime, homelessness, and drug addiction than you’d think.

Many national non-profits make their homes in Washington, D.C. and are looking for volunteers. For those of us who have a spare moment to volunteer while visiting the nation’s capital ( it’s a great place to experience, but you’ll have some free time once all those monuments start to look the same), volunteering with local organizations can make all the difference in the lives of your fellow American.


WPFW 89.3 FM

D.C.’s only jazz and blues station is looking for volunteers to help with fundraisers, answer phones, and record incoming pledges to help this listener-supported radio stay on the air. During call-in fundraisers, pledge-drive shifts are 4 hours long and are available throughout the day. For other info about on-going opportunities, contact WPFW’s Volunteer Coordinator at volunteers@wpfw.org or at (202)588-0999 ex. 360. Groups of 4 or more will be recognized on the air!


SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry providing skills for tomorrow’s work force. This organization allows participants to learn about industries that interest them. Short term events such as judging skills preparedness at national conventions or conducting leadership and communication programs are available.

If you are interested in passing on technical knowledge you have learned, and connecting with tomorrow’s work force, contact SkillsUSA.

Community for Creative Non-Violence

Located just a few blocks from the Capitol Building, CCNV houses 1,350 homeless men and women. This organization offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation, medical, mental health and dental care, and cultural activities. Volunteers are needed at all times to assist in providing services to the residents of the nation’s largest transitional homeless shelter. Call (202) 393-1909 for more information.


Howard University

For people putting down roots in D.C., the Community Services program at Howard University’s medical center offers healthy individuals 19 and up the opportunity to work in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, community relations and child care, among others. This program gives people interested in the health care field the chance to get hands-on experience working with patients before going into rigorous studies or switching tracks. After an orientation session (see the website for dates and details) and a health and background check, participants are asked to contribute a minimum of 100 hours a year with this program. Email CLivingston@huhosp.org or call (202) 865-4238 with any questions.

The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/District of Columbia

The people working here to save the planet, to share wild spaces with city dwellers, and to educate others know that volunteers aren’t just “free labor.” Whether you want to get your hands dirty or work inside with maps and database systems, the Nature Conservancy is a great place to put your love for nature to work. To learn more, contact Paula Becker at (410) 260-8568 or PBECKER@dnr.state.md.us.

Jubilee Youth Services (JYS)

JYS of Jubilee Housing, Inc, a non-profit organization founded in 1973 to provide affordable housing and supportive services to economically disadvantaged residents of the neighborhood.

JYS is an after-school enrichment program located in the Adams Morgan area that needs people interested in mentoring or tutoring the youth it serves. As a volunteer, you have the option of working with the age group of your choice (K-2nd, 3rd-6th or 7th-12th) in an interest area that falls in line with your personal strengths and talents. All volunteers must attend an orientation as well as agree to a background check. Spanish language skills are helpful, but not required. More info can be found on the Jubilee Housing website.


Healthy Babies Project Inc.

For almost 20 years, this drop-in facility has worked with other agencies to provide education and training to at-risk moms in the D.C. metro area. In an effort to reduce infant illness and mortality, the Healthy Babies Project offers substance abuse counseling and intervention as well as immunization programs to the public. Volunteers work with children, media outreach, or prepare food. For more information, contact Kristol Parker at (202) 396-2809 or fill out the online application.

Bread for the City

This non-profit organization provides at-risk residents of Washington, D.C. with food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services. Volunteers who wish to work in the kitchen must commit to one shift a week, and are asked to work for at least four months to establish continuity in the lives of the people they work with. Short term opportunities are available, so visit the organization’s website for more information.

Covenant House Washington

Covenant House has been combating the widespread problems of homelessness and poverty among teenagers and young adults since 1995. You can help street kids become successful adults by working as an educational tutor or Life Skills Assistant. Visit the website to see the list of upcoming and annual events put on by the largest privately funded homelessness agency in the Americas.  

Complete the Volunteer Interest Form, or call (202) 610-9600 to speak to the volunteer coordinator and get started.

Community Connection:

Check out the other cities in our urban volunteering series – Buenos AiresChicago, and London.

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