It's summertime, and that means it's time to get outside, get active, and start working on your tan. But you don't have to sit on the beach all summer to get that bronze complexion. Put yourself to work and give back to your community with these six outdoor volunteer opportunities.
Charleston County Parks
From litter cleanup and recycling efforts to invasive plant removal and resource recovery, Charleston County Parks offers a range of volunteering opportunities at their various parks, including James Island County Park, Folly Beach County Park, McLeod Plantation Historic Site and the Mt. Pleasant Pier. You can volunteer to help out with a festival or a special event, or with day-to-day park maintenance. Volunteers who serve more than 30 hours are rewarded with a volunteer reciprocal pass for participating area attractions. Check out the full list of available opportunities online.
Looking to inject your volunteering experience with a little bit of history? Look no further than Middleton Place, the historic rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley. Home to America's oldest landscaped gardens, Magnolia utilizes volunteers to help with everything from guided tours of the gardens, house museum, and stableyards to assisting with kayak tours and helping care for the center's reptiles and amphibians. Middleton Place Foundation also offers volunteer opportunities at the Edmondston-Alston House on the Battery in downtown Charleston. All volunteers will receive a complimentary membership to the Middleton Place Foundation and are invited to attend educational field trips and lectures.
Keep North Charleston Beautiful
Keep North Charleston Beautiful (KNCB) is an organization that works to "create a community where people want to live, work, and play." Volunteers can engage in hands-on-beautification efforts such as planting flowers, painting and cleaning signs, and litter cleanup or participate in one of their many events each year. In addition to their beautification efforts, North Charleston also supports educational initiatives aimed at teaching schools and communities about the importance of environmental stewardship and sustainability.
Charleston Parks Conservancy
Help to renovate and maintain Charleston's parks by volunteering to be a Park Angel with the Charleston Parks Conservancy. The Charleston Parks Conservancy is a non-profit organization partnered with the city of Charleston to help with upkeep of the city's parks, and the Park Angels are the face of this organization — they were the ones behind recent Colonial Lake and Hampton Park renovations. Park Angels have responsibilities such as organizing community park projects, planning community events, and, of course, getting dirty maintaining the city's parks. As a Park Angel, you'll be able to learn gardening skills and techniques through volunteering in community gardens or by becoming an educator for school groups and public programs. During the hot summer months, you can also volunteer to help water the many gardens as an Aqua Angel.
Green Heart Project
Volunteer with the Green Heart Project and help teach students about the importance of sustainability and local food systems. Founded in 2009 as a small school garden at Mitchell Elementary School, the Green Heart Project has since grown to include five schools in its farm-to-school program, which brings the concepts and theories behind sustainable agriculture into the classroom. Although school is not currently in session, the Green Heart Project still needs help with maintaining the gardens throughout the summer. Every Thursday evening are Community Volunteer Hours for those interested, and volunteers are invited to come out and get their hands dirty helping with garden upkeep. Once school starts up again, the Green Heart Project will also be looking for volunteers for their Healthy Hearts cooking classes and to act as Green Heart Buddies, volunteers who work alongside students to maintain the gardens.
Charleston Habitat for Humanity
If you're looking to contribute to the community while gaining some valuable skills of your own, look no further than Charleston Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a "world where everyone has a decent place to live" by providing affordable housing opportunities to families of modest incomes. The Charleston chapter of Habitat for Humanity serves the communities of Charleston and North Charleston, and volunteers will take part in all areas of construction including framing, shingling, landscaping, and fence building. No experience is necessary, and the Charleston Habitat for Humanity website insists that the organization can "take you from an unskilled volunteer to a skilled, qualified leader." Habitat for Humanity also has locations on Johns Island and Mt. Pleasant.