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Volunteering is good for the community and good for you—but how do you find the best ways to get involved?

Community Builders

Community Builders for Monterey County’s website shows over 100 volunteer opportunities, both one-off events and ongoing needs, with local Monterey County nonprofits. Screenshot.

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about giving back. There are many, many ways to get involved in a community and help the people around you—from running an errand for a neighbor to volunteering your time on a regular basis to donating money to local nonprofits. In my life here in Big Sur I’m surrounded by people who are very involved in the community, organizing and hosting events, and operating nonprofits in the areas of art, history, public safety and more. So part of my journey in moving back has been figuring out where I fit in, and how I can contribute.

But here’s the thing—it’s not always easy to know how to get involved. There are a lot of questions to ask and answer—what skills do I have to offer? How much time can I spend volunteering? What kinds of missions are most exciting or fulfilling to me? And also, very simply, what kind of opportunities are currently available?

Community Builders for Monterey County is a resource that exists to help would-be volunteers answer that last question. Founded in 2017, Community Builders is a web portal where local nonprofits can post volunteer opportunities and people like you and me can search through what’s needed—both ongoing volunteer work and one-off events. “Our focus is really to support community engagement,” Executive Director Tish Sammon says.

There are plenty of other online tools like Community Builders, but what sets this site apart is its focus on the local. There are about 90 Monterey County organizations that post their “needs” to the site—visitors can search by date, location, interest and more. Sammon says Community Builders is especially interested in boosting smaller nonprofits, ones people might not know about.

“There are so many different ways to get involved, to help others and to help yourself,” Sammon says, in reference to research that shows volunteering—in addition to being a kind and community-minded thing to do—can help support the volunteer’s mental health

April is National Volunteer Month, and this week, April 16-22, is National Volunteer Week. If you’re looking to celebrate by joining a new volunteer opportunity, Community Builders can help. As for me, I’m still finding my ways to give back. One of those will happen Sunday, April 30, when I’ll be joining 23 other relay runners (plus seven marathoners, a 21-miler, an 11-miler and a 12K runner) in Relay for Rachael—running the Big Sur International Marathon as a fundraiser for local photographer Rachael Short. After a 2010 car accident left Short quadriplegic, friends have gathered each year to run and raise money for her out-of-pocket care and therapy costs. This is the 13th edition of Relay for Rachael, and my second year running. For me it’s a contribution that feels good and poetically reciprocal—I can fundraise to help support one person’s physical and mental health, while running to support my own.

In honor of National Volunteer Week I’d also love to hear from you—do you have a volunteer practice (organized or not) that is especially fulfilling? How did you find out about the opportunity and get involved?

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