Sarasota is filled with a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for those interested in giving back to the community. These opportunities pertain to a vast selection of causes ranging from prevalent national organizations such as Meals on Wheels, a program that works to address senior hunger isolation by delivering food, to more local organizations such as the Circus Arts Conservatory, a program that aims to provide learning opportunities for students and entertain those in care facilities. The time commitments to these programs also vary heavily, allowing students who may have a packed schedule to participate in supporting their community.
One of the largest local organizations is the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) which aims to “improve the health of Sarasota Bay and enhance the area’s natural resources for public benefit.” The program addresses four main topics: water quality, habitat restoration, community engagement and environmental education. The SBEP hosts various events that allow the community to actively participate in restoration efforts, such as next summer’s Eyes on Seagrass event set for July 12 to July 24, 2022. Volunteers would be aiding scientists in surveying seagrass and macroalgae. The SBEP frequently hosts citizen science projects like Eyes on Seagrass, so students interested in supporting bay restoration efforts can sign up to receive emails informing them of upcoming events.
Students who may lack the time to dedicate to long-term causes are in luck, as some programs require little more than a couple of hours of their time. iNaturalist is an app that volunteers can participate in throughout their day, dedicating as much time as they choose to it. iNaturalist allows users to photograph various organisms such as insects or plants, which the app then attempts to identify. The app also connects users with each other allowing them to work together in identifying organisms the app was unable to. The goal of iNaturalist, besides being an immensely entertaining hobby and learning tool, is to provide valuable survey data to scientists. The app maps out the location of each organism identified which allows scientists to keep track of where particular species reside.
Another organization that requires very little time commitment is Compeer Sarasota, a program that aims to help those struggling with mental illness by providing them with a caring support system. Volunteers simply provide a participant with their company to help provide support to those in need. “Compeer pairs you up with someone that is looking for a friend and mentor. Someone to tag along and do the things that you probably already do for fun.”Second Heart Homes (SHH) is an organization working to aid individuals with mental disabilities who are struggling to find housing or are homeless. SHH provides a multitude of services beyond housing, mainly focusing on teaching essential life skills such as cooking, resume building, computer literacy and job seeking. Volunteers have no shortage of options in how they choose to help. Those who are looking to help but may be unable to travel or dedicate much time to SHH can instead create or aid in fundraisers. SHH provides a complete list of valuable household goods that can be donated, known as “in-kind donations.” Some items include toiletries—such as toothpaste and deodorant—or cleaning supplies, namely trash bags and cleaning solutions. Those looking to take a more hands-on role in supporting SHH can volunteer for several positions. For those looking for a short-term position, SHH is always looking for volunteers to teach life skills, chaperone field trips and volunteer with clients at food pantries. SHH is also looking for volunteers to fill several long-term positions. The organization is in need of a social media manager and an executive assistant.