Doing Good in the ‘Hood

Creative volunteering opportunities in DC

Doing Good in the ‘Hood

Are you stuck in a writing rut? Is your creative muse on the lam? Well, you could just sit in front of your computer and wait for inspiration. But I have another suggestion.

Get your creative mojo flowing again by going out into the community and doing something new. I’m not talking about hydro zorbing or extreme pottery. I’m talking about a few hours of volunteering. Here are some options in the DC area for people with a creative, literary bent:

  • 826DC: I’ve already mentioned this children’s writing and literacy organization in my article about public readings, but here’s where you find out what they actually do and how you can get involved. Volunteers help students with homework during after-school tutoring on weekday afternoons. The field trips are even more fun: Volunteers guide visiting school groups through the process of writing and illustrating their own books, and each student receives a copy to personalize and take home. Or you could go with 826DC into local schools as a creative-writing mentor. If you can only volunteer on weekends, you can be part of their Reading All-Stars program or volunteer to lead a workshop in writing poetry or essays or mysteries or science fiction or just about anything under the sun and beyond. Click here to volunteer.

I’ve written the most about 826DC because I’ve personally volunteered with them, but here are other similarly creative/reading and writing-oriented volunteer options in the area:

  • Young Playwrights' Theater (YPT): Playwrights and actors, start your engines! YPT works with grade-school through high-school students who are interested in theater. Their Young Playwrights' Workshop guides kids through the process of writing, rehearsing and staging their own plays. Most of the volunteer positions they list are support positions (marketing and mailing help, ushering, etc.), but they also hire Teaching Artists with relevant experience.
  • Shout Mouse Press: This is a writing and publishing program with a social justice mission: to amplify marginalized voices by working with them to create books that speak to their experiences. They partner with schools and nonprofits to give a platform to socio-economically disadvantaged writers, writers of color, the disabled, LGBTQ, or authors who may be too young or old to be taken seriously by traditional publishers. They’re looking for volunteers in all areas, from story coaches to graphic designers and illustrators, to marketing and fundraising support.
  • Reading Partners: Where would we writers be without readers? Reading Partners gets ‘em hooked while they’re young. Volunteers work one-on-one with students in over a dozen locations in the DC area, and only have to commit to one hour a week. That’s not a lot of time to part with to cement a child’s lifelong love of books.
  • College Summit: Now that these kids can read, they’re gonna want to go to college. And after that, they’ll need jobs. College Summit is there to help. Their model is to work with low-income teens, training them to become Peer Leaders who in turn motivate other students to strive for college as well. Volunteers can serve as short term Writing Coaches or College Coaches for their summer workshops, or can help in other capacities throughout the year. 
  • Stone Soup Films: Filmmakers, I haven’t forgotten you. Stone Soup Films works with local nonprofits to help them tell their stories through film. Volunteers with film experience will find a place to use their unique skill sets for the greater good. They’re also looking for help with a wide range of other functions, such as production, graphic design and grant writing.

So there you go, writers: just about any activity you want to sample is there for the volunteering. Muses love it when you get out of your comfort zone and do something positive for yourself and the wider community. And who knows, maybe one day a pizza-loving princess dragon you dream up during an 826DC Field Trip will jumpstart the best story you’ve ever written!

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