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Summer’s here. Time to volunteer

When you’ve just been sprung from school, summer seems gigantic, endless, brimming with freedom and possibility — or, perhaps, just brimming with endlessness.

Many local nonprofit agencies and jurisdictions offer summer outings for young people who want to put some free time to good use. Plenty of opportunities are regular enough to keep you feeling like you matter — and maybe like you’re amassing good stuff for a future job or college application — but occasional enough not to infringe on your sacred right to sleep past lunchtime most days of the week.

The only rub for young people is, if you’re between 14 and 17 years old, you’ll almost always need a parent or guardian’s signed permission to proceed. If you’re younger than 14, you almost certainly need the parent with you. Other than that, all you need is the ability to take some initiative and make some arrangements ahead of time:

  • The Clark County Food Bank may offer the widest-open volunteer opportunities around. It’s “one of the only volunteer options where no training is required and it’s open to any age,” executive director Alan Hamilton has said. Repack food at the Food Bank warehouse in Minnehaha on the second and fourth Tuesday evening of the month; help grow and harvest crops to feed the hungry at the Clark County Heritage Farm on Wednesday and Saturday mornings throughout growing season; or, commit to a little training and then sort food on weekdays at midday. You can just show up solo or in a group of friends — always fun for teens — or you can call ahead to review other possibilities — like landscaping outside the building or office help inside it.
    Visit http://www.clarkcountyfoodbank.org or contact volunteer coordinator Marlene Ashworth at 360-693-0939.
  • There’s a regular Wednesday afternoon work party at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library System headquarters — the former library at 1007 E. Mill Plain, Vancouver — that’s perfect for high-schoolers. Volunteer coordinator Sherry Braga is eager for kids who are eager for some easy bookish tasks, like labelling books, stuffing bags and cutting out pictures for English conversation circles. Just dropping in is OK, but it’s better to confirm ahead of time, Braga said. Email her at volunteer@fvrl.org or call 360-906-5075.
    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.
  • The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge will deploy volunteers to go after invasive plants and improve wildlife habitats on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, July 1 through Sept. 2 — and summer volunteers even get to venture into those parts of the refuge that are normally closed to visitors. If you’re under 18 a parent must sign a permission form. Contact Lynn Cornelius at 360-887-3883 or Lynn_Cornelius@fws.gov.
  • Clark County Public Works is the agency responsible for building and maintaining parks and trails in the unincorporated county. Saturday morning volunteer outings this summer will go to Whipple Creek Regional Park, Lewis River Ranch, the Salmon-Morgan Creek Natural Area, Vancouver Lake Regional Park and Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park.
    Clark County’s platform for signing up volunteers — including teens — is the website parkhero.org. There’s a ton of information there, including calendars, project descriptions and special information for youth. Contact Karen Llewellyn at 360-397-6118 ext. 1627 or karen.llewellyn@clark.wa.gov to learn more.
  • The same goes for the city of Vancouver: a sophisticated and multifaceted volunteer program that you can check out at http://www.cityofvancouver.us/cmo/page/volunteer-programs. Saturday morning volunteer outings will include ivy pulling in Blandford Canyon and general care and maintenance of Leroy Haagen Park and Hearthwood Park. You can also pitch in at the many concerts and movies the city is offering in July and August at Esther Short Park and Columbia Tech Center Park; learn more about helping out at those events at http://www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/special-event-volunteers.
    Contact Hailey Heath at 360-487-8316 or hailey.heath@cityofvancouver.us.
  • Unfortunately, some of the most popular, vital and volunteer-driven nonprofit agencies in town — like Share and the Humane Society for Southwest Washington — face some challenges when working with minors. That’s because there are always issues of training and commitment, sensitivity and liability when you’re doing direct care of troubled living things. But Share still may be able to recruit you for shelf-stocking or bag-stuffing or, with some basic training, food service; visit http://sharevancouver.org/volunteer, email volunteers@sharevancouver.org or call 360-952-8230.
  • It’s always worth checking with your favorite local nonprofit. The smaller it is, the more desperate for help it may be.

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