Make your free time pay off this summer

All right, young folks. No one's saying you don't deserve to relax now that the school year is finished. But are you really going to be content with sitting on your couch all summer watching "Three's Company" rerun marathons? Many area nonprofits...

All right, young folks.

No one's saying you don't deserve to relax now that the school year is finished. But are you really going to be content with sitting on your couch all summer watching "Three's Company" rerun marathons?

Many area nonprofits are hoping your answer to that question is no.

Charities, youth programs, museums and other agencies across the Northland have hundreds of volunteer positions open this summer.

And while those places certainly will appreciate your help, they won't be the only ones to benefit. Volunteering can be an enriching experience on many levels, say those who work with volunteers.


Brenda Butterfield, an instructor in the psychology department at the University of Minnesota Duluth, required the 78 students in her developmental psychology class last semester to volunteer for 15 hours as a way to examine their coursework's applications to real life.

After working with children in academic and after-school programs --"I didn't want them stuffing envelopes," Butterfield said -- three students have received job offers and many have expressed an interest in continuing their volunteer work.

Butterfield said the experience also has given some students a taste of how their major works in real life, and has prompted a few to switch fields of study.

"I was really surprised at the response," Butterfield said

Furthermore, volunteering looks great on resumes and applications for jobs, colleges and graduate schools.

"Young people especially can get a direct benefit," said Nikki Townsend, volunteer outreach coordinator for the True North Volunteer Center, a volunteer clearinghouse in Duluth. "It looks really good to say, 'I'm an involved member of the community. I'm not just going through the motions.' That way you can say, 'I really want this job,' or 'I really want to go to this school,' and it doesn't look like you're just saying it."

Townsend recommends that those thinking about volunteering look for positions in fields that interest them, or turn to groups and institutions whose work they enjoy or respect.

"Decide what your interests are," she said. "What do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Look at that before you head out, and you'll find something that doesn't feel like a chore."


The following is a list -- by no means an exhaustive one -- of some regional volunteer opportunities:

* A good first stop might be the True North Volunteer Center's Web site, "We have hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of opportunities available," Townsend said. Some positions available include exhibit interpreters for the Great Lakes Aquarium and Duluth Children's Museum, assisting with Churches United in Ministry's Rhubarb Festival and visiting residents of area assisted-living facilities. For information, call True North Volunteer Center at 722-4745, ext. 119.

* The Tweed Museum of Art on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus has positions for museum greeters. Download a volunteer application at , or call volunteer coordinator Sandi Peterson at 726-7823 for more information.

* There are plenty of animals at the Humane Society of Douglas County in need of walking, brushing and attention. "We always need dog-walkers and people who will play with the cats and brush them," said Jean Kioski, secretary of the society's board of directors. Volunteers who are at least 13 years old can call (715) 398-6784 for more information.

* Ditto at Animal Allies in Duluth. "We are in dire need of dog-walkers in the morning," said volunteer coordinator Stefanie Kemp. "And if they're really ambitious, they can help out with cleaning." Volunteers, who must be over 16, also are needed to help organize fundraisers and assist with committee work. Download an application at, call 722-5341, or stop by the shelter, 2627 Courtland St., or the business office, 407 W. Michigan St.

* SMDC Health System has high school-age volunteers help with flower delivery, visitor assistance or staff prepwork. College students often are assigned to departments in which they're preparing to work, like pharmacy, nursing or physical therapy. Contact volunteer supervisor Joy Miller at 786-4420. St. Luke's hospital has a similar program, but its volunteer slots are full.

* Men as Peacemakers seeks volunteers for its restorative justice program, which gets troubled kids back on track. Call project leader Mary Skillings at 727-1939.

* Churches United in Ministry needs volunteers in a variety of capacities, including office work, working with disabled individuals and helping prepare meals at the Drop-In Center. Check out or call 720-6521.


* "We are definitely in the market for volunteers," said Becky Norlien, volunteer coordinator with the Two Harbors Public Library. "Putting away books is the chief thing, but we've got other things we can set people up with." Norlien said volunteers also help set up displays and work with the library's summer reading program. Call 834-3148 or stop in at the library, 320 Waterfront Drive, for a volunteer application. The Duluth Public Library said it doesn't use volunteers.

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