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'Tis the Season for Volunteering

People often make a commitment to volunteer more in the community and give back as a New Year's resolution. Virginia Giles, volunteer resources manager for the Pittsburgh Project, said that this is a great thing, but it can be even better if volunteering lasts long past the start of the year.

"January is a really big time of year for people to start volunteering, and a lot of organizations are prepared for that, and even though there are a lot of people doing it, it's still a great time to get involved," Giles said. "Towards the end of the winter and the spring, as people are kind of gearing up for summer and summer vacation, volunteering does tend to die down, but the need is still there."

The Pittsburgh Project works on urban renewal and provides opportunities and guidance for underprivileged children. Giles said that she's most excited about their after-school program, where high school and college students, working adults, and retired professionals take time to spend with Pittsburgh students as tutors.

"While they're helping them with homework, what they're really doing is modeling to these kids who may have very chaotic home lives, what does a healthy adult look like, and what are really positive relationships like, and it's a really special thing," Giles said.

Giles encourages anyone with a desire to volunteer or a project idea to be proactive and reach out to volunteer coordinators in the region, because, she said, the best ideas often come from the community itself.

In addition to the Pittsburgh Project, Pittsburgh Cares is an organization that offers a database of volunteer opportunities for different groups and organizations. Their website's interactive calendar offers volunteers a chance to plan ahead and seek outreach opportunities on days of their choosing.