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10 BU Global Days of Service Spots to Volunteer on Our Doorstep

Clean up the Charles, help women in need, guide the blind from your phone, more


Every April, thousands of BU students, alums, staff, and faculty take a break from their routines to help others. During the monthlong Global Days of Service, they give their time, expertise, and labor to great organizations and causes, from a charity supporting veterans in Australia to an annual spring cleaning along the Charles River. In 2017, more than 2,000 BU community members contributed 10,752 hours to 210 projects in 114 cities.

Although the event is global, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities in Boston; BU Today picked 10 that are on or close to campus:

1) Help the Homeless Recover from Illness

A resident at Barbara McInnis House.

A resident at Barbara McInnis House.

People who are homeless and recovering from an illness or injury have few options for resting up and getting well again. At Barbara McInnis House, 780 Albany St., Boston, Boston Healthcare for the Homeless provides respite care for those too sick to return to a shelter. Volunteers are needed to bring a little light into patients’ lives, playing games or leading arts and crafts activities.
When: April 8, 12:30–4 pm

2) Make a New Feline Friend

For more than 130 years, Gifford Cat Shelter, 30 Undine Rd., Brighton, has rescued abandoned, abused, and injured cats, returning them to health and finding them new homes. The shelter needs volunteers to help prepare decorations for a major fundraising drive, as well as to clean the shelter and its yard. The shelter promises plenty of cat time in exchange.
When: April 15, 9 am–noon

3) Save Three Lives—Give Blood

sign pointing to blood drive

Photo courtesy of MA Red Cross Blood

Donated blood is needed every two seconds in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. You can donate at an American Red Cross Blood Drive at the School of Medicine. One pint could save up to three lives. Sign up online (type “BUMC” in the Find a Drive search bar).
When: April 19, 11 am–4 pm

4) Package Toys for Kids

According to the US Census Bureau, 17 percent of Bostonians under the age of 18 live in poverty. Volunteers at Cradles to Crayons, which collects new and nearly new books, clothes, shoes, and toys and sends them to children in poverty, will work in the organization’s Giving Factory warehouse, 155 No. Beacon St., Brighton, quality-checking and packaging donations. At West End House Boys & Girls Club, 105 Allston St., Allston, you can help kids with homework, eat dinner with them, and support academic, fitness, leadership, or arts activities.
When: West End House, April 11, 2:30–6 pm; Cradles to Crayons, April 20, 10 am–noon

5) Beautify a Safe Space for Women in Need

Woods-Mullen Shelter

Photo courtesy of Friends of Boston’s Homeless

For women without a home, but in need of a safe space to sleep, eat, wash, and access healthcare services, the Woods-Mullen Shelter, 794 Mass. Ave., South End, Boston, is a refuge from the streets. The 200-bed shelter is open year-round for women aged 18 and over. Volunteers will help beautify Woods-Mullen by making sure the beds are clean and ready for those who need them.
When: April 22, 9:30 am–noon

6) Give More Than Old Clothes to Goodwill

Photo by Cydney Scott

Photo by Cydney Scott

That natty hat, the cool coat, the why-on-earth-did-someone-give-this-away vinyl. You’ve probably uncovered a few choice finds at Goodwill—and perhaps even donated some old favorites from the back of your closet. Now you can give your time to Goodwill. The nonprofit is looking for volunteers to help sort and tag donations at its Boston HQ, 1010 Harrison Ave. You’ll be continuing a long BU-Goodwill connection: the organization’s founder, Edgar J. Helms, was an 1895 School of Theology alum.
When: April 24, 1:30 –3:30 pm

7) Help a Baby Make the Best Start

A post shared by Room to Grow (@roomtogroworg) on Dec 22, 2017 at 12:10pm PST

The mission of Room to Grow, 142 Berkeley St., Boston, is to help children born into poverty by giving their parents educational and material support. As a volunteer, you’ll sift through donations of clothing, toys, and books so they can become part of a child’s life.
When: April 24, 2–4 pm

8) Charles River Spring Cleaning

Photo courtesy of the Charles River Watershed Association

Photo courtesy of the Charles River Watershed Association

The Charles River no longer flows with the dirty water once immortalized in song; you can even swim in it during the annual City Splash event (but not during the rest of the year, people). It takes hard work to keep the river and its banks sparkling. At the Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup, volunteers will pick up trash and weed out invasive species. Across the city on the same day, volunteers will also be needed on the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Muddy River cleanup.
When: April 28, 9 am–noon

9) Enjoy a Splash of Green

Photo courtesy of the Franklin Park Coalition

Photo courtesy of the Franklin Park Coalition

Feeling starved of green after March’s succession of winter storms? Head down to Franklin Park, One Franklin Park Rd., to help spruce up Boston’s largest green space. The Franklin Park Coalition needs volunteers to restore park signs, throw down mulch to keep weeds at bay, and pluck out invasive species.
When: April 28, 1–3 pm

10) Help the Blind—with Your Phone

A screenshot from the Be My Eyes app

Photo courtesy of Be My Eyes

For those who have a crazy schedule or can’t make it to a volunteer site, there are 18 projects you can support from your home or with your phone. One of them, Be My Eyes, needs volunteers to help people who are blind or visually impaired. When someone requires visual assistance—perhaps to steer through an unfamiliar place or figure out if their milk has expired—you receive a video call; they show you their problem and you solve it. You can also lend your typing skills to the Smithsonian to transcribe collection records, such as field notes and diaries, your digital prowess to Code for America to help make government websites more accessible, and your artistic talent to Musicians on Call to beam live music to the bedside of hospital patients. Just click on the Volunteer on Your Own tab on the Global Days of Service website.
When: Anytime you like 

BU has created the ultimate volunteering soundtrack. Listen on Spotify.

You can register for any of the 163 projects looking for volunteers on the Global Days of Service website; all volunteers who donate their time will get a free T-shirt. (Students: Don’t forget to add your time to the Million Hours Project, the running total of student community service during the Campaign for Boston University.) And if you’ve already given your time somewhere else, you can register your independent service, too—you’ll still be eligible for the shirt.

Andrew Thurston can be reached at thurston@bu.edu.

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