The giving-back glow-up

Volunteer opportunities around Buffalo

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Students often find themselves with extra time during the week but aren’t sure what to do with it. 

Many join clubs or pick up extra shifts at their job, but some students need an extra sense of accomplishment. 

That’s where volunteering comes in. There are many volunteer opportunities across Buffalo, ranging from helping out at food banks to spending time with animals.

We’ve compiled a list of organizations that are always looking for new volunteers for those looking to lend a helping hand. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara and the Southern Tier

Child mentors

The Big Brother Big Sister program is a nationally-recognized organization that pairs adult volunteers with at-risk youth to improve success, confidence and educational goals. Volunteers can work as little as three to five hours a month as the group offers two types of programs: community-based mentoring and site-based mentoring. 

Community-based mentoring relies on the volunteer to coordinate activities and time frames with their “little,” which can be as often as they choose. Site-based mentoring refers to volunteers meeting their “littles” in school or in community centers once a week. 

Volunteers take on the role of older siblings to their assigned child. This gives them the opportunity to have a lasting effect on their formative years.

Meals on Wheels for WNY

Food service for the elderly and disabled

 The Food Bank of Western New York is responsible for a variety of non-profit organizations that bring fresh produce and warm meals to people in the community who face food insecurity. 

Meals on Wheels is another popular volunteer opportunity that allows the volunteer to decide how often they are able to work. Volunteers also do not need access to a car, as the program can arrange to have drivers. 

The program helps the elderly and disabled who are homebound maintain their independence and gives them the opportunity to socialize. The volunteer’s job is to then bring these meals directly into the home, providing food and friendly conversation.

SPCA Serving Erie County

Volunteering with animals

SAMANTHA VARGAS | The Spectrum

Tigger is a seven-year-old shorthair cat that is available for adoption at the SPCA. Volunteers can apply to work in their cat colony rooms or clean the kennels.


The SPCA is another nationally recognized non-profit that works to ensure the well-being of animals through animal cruelty investigations, rescues, admissions, care and adoptions. The SPCA offers 17 different volunteer positions with varying levels of contact with the animals. 

For those who might not want immediate contact with animals but still want to work with the SPCA, they offer positions like working at their animal boutique, as an educational guide or as a greeter at the shelter. 

Those who are comfortable around animals and have more availability can volunteer in on-site socialization, fostering programs and veterinary assistance. 

 The organization also offers college internships for those considering a career in animal care or welfare. 

Habitat for Humanity

Building homes for low-income families

 Habitat for Humanity is the pinnacle of modern volunteer work. 

Every Ned Flanders-type character has worked with Habitat for Humanity to show how giving they are, and for good reason. 

Habitat pushes their volunteers to the limit, assigning them to build houses for those in need. This type of work is incredibly difficult but provides the best kind of payout. 

All volunteers involved can see how their work has affected individuals right in their community. Those who are interested don’t need any previous construction experience but need to be prepared to learn and put in work. 

If you aren’t interested in the construction aspect but would still like to be involved, the organization also offers opportunities within their administration team. These jobs work directly with low-income families looking to purchase houses.

Buffalo Olmstead Parks Conservancy

Cleaning up parks

 Volunteering to clean up local parks is a great way to enjoy nature while also giving back to the community. 

The Olmstead Parks Conservancy prides itself on beginning entirely with volunteer support. 

From its buildings to gardens and ponds, every aspect of the park is maintained by volunteers. It invites volunteers to come in groups and work together to help make the parks –– including Delaware Park, Riverside Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park –– the best they can be. 

Samantha Vargas is the senior features editor and can be reached at Samantha.Vargas@UBSpectrum.com and on Twitter at @SamMarieVargas.

SAMANTHA VARGAS


Samantha Vargas is the senior features editor, an English/film studies double major with a minor in media study. She spends her free time finding shows around Buffalo and hanging out with her cat.