School’s out. Now what?

volunteer annette chang

Sweet dreams of endless summer with nothing to do can turn into a sour reality: Endless summer with nothing to do.

Meanwhile there’s a world of need out there. And a world of future employers and colleges to impress. (Not to mention your own precious self.)

With a little bit of initiative and expectation management, teens should be able to find lots of cool stuff to do this summer. By “cool” I mean stuff that helps others as well as yourself. By “expectation management” I mean, your tasks likely will be menial and won’t involve cute doggies and kitties. Nor will they involve human being in distress. The closer you get to caring for people – or any living beings –the higher the bar in terms of training and minimum age requirements.

“Most of our opportunities require training, a long-term commitment, and a minimum age of 18,” said Stephanie Barr, the volunteer coordinator for the YWCA Clark County, which works with foster children and domestic violence victims.

The same goes for Share and the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, well-known charities that come to mind immediately when people – especially young people – picture themselves doing good unto others.

Food and friends
So, try picturing yourself doing good unto boxes, crates and bags full of food, clothing and household supplies. Groups of kids are always welcome at the Share warehouse for sorting and packing; ditto the Clark County Food Bank warehouse, especially on the second and fourth Tuesday nights of the month. Rounding up a bunch of your friends can make what sounds like a dull time hauling and lifting into a fun social outing.

The Clark County Food Bank “is one of the only volunteer options where no training is required and it’s open to any age,” executive director Alan Hamilton said.

Visit The food bank’s volunteer coordinator is Kristen Herron at 360-693-0939 or

Books and bags
Another excellent option is libraries. Sherry Braga, volunteer coordinator with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library System, said there’s a regular Wednesday afternoon work party at FVRLS headquarters — the former library at 1007 E. Mill Plain, Vancouver — that’s perfect for high-schoolers. It involves tasks like sorting and labeling books, stuffing bags and cutting out pictures for English conversation circles. Just dropping in is OK, although it’s always better to confirm ahead of time, Braga said. Email her at or call 360-699-8812.
Plus, local library branches are eager to enlist teens to help with summer reading programs. Contact Braga or just walk into your local branch and ask.

Special summer events and outdoor cleanups in parks and trails are also eager for help. For special events, try the Human Services Council at or call 360-735-3683.

Parks, trails and more
If you’re interested in joining a work party in a park, trail, cemetery or other outdoor greenspace – or if you’re not exactly sure what you’re interested in but figure you ought to do something – try Vancouver’s volunteer coordinator, Hailey Heath, at 360-487-8316 or Heath is the expert on city volunteer opportunities and maintains the website

Or try Karen Llewellyn, Clark County’s volunteer coordinator, at 360-397-6118, ext. 1627, or The entry points for volunteers with all Clark County park projects are the websites or

Finally, the Hands On Greater Portland website covers Clark County as well as the whole Portland area and is super-handy because it can be sorted and searched any number of different ways, including by date, place and type of outing. You can hunt for ongoing, regular commitments or one-time events. Take a look at

The Columbian runs regular volunteer notices on Wednesdays in the Life/Neighbors section, under the heading “You Can Help.”

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