Be sure to ask what rules the organization has in place to keep volunteers safe. Some require, for example, that their volunteers be fully vaccinated and masked. If you feel uncomfortable indoors, you can choose to volunteer in well-ventilated, low-traffic areas or outdoors.
Even at the height of the pandemic, Patricia Novy de Clark, NJ, 72, a retired art teacher and former Girl Scout leader, rallied former teachers, family members and neighbors to fill baskets and Christmas stockings for those who could not afford them. They were distributed by Family promise, an organization that helps low-income families with housing and other services.
â€œI was determined not to let this lockdown situation put me in a bad mood,â€ Ms. Novy said.
The type of activity you choose is less important than whether you find it meaningful, said Ms. Walker, author of “400 Friends and No One to Call.” During her 25 years as a rehabilitation counselor, primarily in Virginia and Maine, she has placed her clients in volunteer activities to help them gain self-confidence and develop their social skills.
â€œThey used volunteering as a bridge to help them reconnect with the community,â€ Ms. Walker said.
Some have worked for a political or environmental cause. Others were driven to share a passion, such as woodworking.
Also, think about the type of environment you would like to volunteer in and whether it will facilitate social interactions, Ms. Walker said.
If you help out in a museum, for example, you can meet larger groups of people than if you volunteered as a tutor, she added.
‘I have all this real goal now’
Some volunteers are driven to heal others – and themselves.
Robyn Houston-Bean, 52, said that when her 20-year-old son Nick died of an accidental overdose in 2015 after attending a drug treatment program, she went from being “a real go-getter doing always a million things “sitting numb on the couch for months.