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10 Best Places to Volunteer Your Time

Where to help out in and around Carrollwood

Volunteering has become a way of life for Randy and Yvonne Buffington.

At the in Carrollwood, the couple has made a huge contribution to the community by creating a successful racquetball league.

"My dad was a Methodist pastor. Finding some place to pitch in was important to me," Yvonne Buffington said.

The couple played racquetball together in college, but hadn't played in about 20 years when they decided to take the sport up again. In 2004, the Buffington's started a league at Carrollwood's YMCA.

"It's very rewarding," said Yvonne Buffington, who volunteers about 15 to 20 hours per week with her husband. "We have parents and kids play. It's great to see them bond over this."

The couple also put their skills as software engineers to use to create a software program that formulates the league schedule, keeping in mind when a parent and teen want to watch each other play.

Ashley Sorensen, Associate Executive Director of the Bob Sierra Family Branch of the YMCA, said the Buffingtons are two of about 450 people who volunteer at the Carrollwood YMCA branch each year.

"The Y is based on volunteers," Sorensen said. "If it wasn't for our volunteers, the Y wouldn't be here."

The YMCA is one of many locations in the Carrollwood area where people can volunteer their time. Here's information on the YMCA and other volunteer organizations that need help:

1. For the sports enthusiast: YMCA

The on Northdale Boulevard is a great place for someone who values physical fitness and a family friendly atmosphere. The non-profit needs volunteers to coach youth and adult sports teams and fundraise during the organization's annual giving campaign. There are also opportunities to help out with office work and plan special events.

Both teens and adults are welcome to volunteer provided they complete and pass background screening and a child abuse prevention course. For more information contact the Bob Sierra YMCA at 962-3220 or go to 4029 Northdale Boulevard. Volunteer applications can be downloaded at www.tampaymca.org. To learn more about the racquetball league at the YMCA, go to http://www.floridaracquetball.net.

2. For animal lovers: Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Volunteers are essential to the to walk dogs, play with cats and assist in the spay/neuter and wellness clinic. They also need people to foster animals until they can be adopted. Their biggest volunteer needs right now are for people to help out with special events, community outreach and kennel assistance.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and willing to work at least 30 hours in the next six months. Upcoming orientations are Jan. 8 and 22 and Feb. 12 and 26. For more information contact Volunteer Manager Danyelle Ho at (813) 774-4344, volunteer@humanesocietytampa.org. The Humane Society is at 3607 N. Armenia Ave, Tampa, FL 33607.

3. Wild about nature? Team up with Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful

Conservation, recycling and a litter-free community is what Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful is all about. This non-profit began in 1992 after a group of residents decided they were fed up seeing trash on their roadways, in their parks around their homes.

Want to get involved? The organization is hosting some upcoming events:

-       At 9 a.m. on Jan 15 is a University Area Community Cleanup, at 14013 N. 22nd St. in Tampa. This is in conjunction with the University of South Florida's Stampede of Service.

-        At 9 a.m. on Jan 16, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, USF students will pick up trash along Martin Luther King Blvd. The starting location is still to be determined.

For more information about these events and others, go to www.khcbonline.org or call 960-5121. The Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful office is located at 10014 N. Dale Mabry Highway, # 101 in Tampa.

4. Mentor minded:  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay

If you're looking to make a positive impact in the life of a child, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay may be the organization for you. The non-profit allows volunteers to mentor children by spending a few hours a month doing things like baking cookies, doing homework or playing in a park.

Tampa's Big Brothers Big Sisters offers two programs. The first is based at schools where volunteers meet with students one hour a week at a school near you. The second program matches the volunteer with a child in their community where you meet on the weekends or after school a few times a month.

Big Brothers Big Sisters requires background screening and training at the organization's office at 711 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 300. For more information go to www.bbbsfl.org or call 769-3630.

5. For book lovers: Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County

For those who are passionate about reading and having a strong local library system, the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County may be for you. The umbrella organization has a group for each branch library, like the Friends of thein Carrollwood. Volunteers spend their time working to strengthen and add to the library collections, as well as special programs and services hosted at each library branch. Adult and teen volunteers can also help by shelving books and helping in library book stores.

For more information, go to www.thpl.org/thpl/friends/ or e-mail volunteer coordinator Robin Gibson at gibsonr@hillsboroughcounty.org.

6. In the park: Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation

Hillsborough County boasts 150 playgrounds, 36 community centers, 20 youth baseball facilities, five softball complexes, seven soccer fields … opportunities for involvement with Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation are almost endless. Volunteers are needed for coaching, field maintenance, river clean-up and for special events.

For more information go to www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks/volunteeropportunities/.

7. Supporting the arts: The Carrollwood Cultural Center

If art shows, live music and dance are your style it's time to check out the .

Volunteers help people register for classes, plan and host special events and create the Center's newsletter.

The Cultural Center is at 4537 Lowell Road. For more information go to http://www.carrollwoodcenter.org/index.html or contact Adrienne Hutelmyer at adrienne@carrollwoodcenter.org,  269-1310 ext. 204.

8. Hope and healing: Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is an organization that helps people deal with trauma as a result of sexual abuse, domestic violence, financial distress, substance abuse and other emotional problems. With their 2-1-1 hotline they offer people counseling and act as a gateway to community resources.

Volunteers are trained to provide crisis counseling through the 2-1-1 hotline. There are also opportunities to become a sexual assault crisis counselor or to be a travelers aid at the airport helping people in need. The organization also needs help with office work and to conduct cell phone and pager collection drives.

For more information about volunteer opportunities call 964-1964 or go to www.crisiscenter.com.

 9. Get involved with United Way's HandsOn Tampa Bay

If you're looking for a wide variety of volunteer opportunites that change each day, month and week, check out United Way's HandsOn Tampa Bay, or HOT.

With HOT, volunteer opportunities in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties are combined in this easy-to-use resource that supports United Way Agencies.

Have some free time Saturday, January 8 – check out the HOT calendar to see there are opportunities to volunteer that day with Horses for the Handicapped, Lowry Park Zoo, the Salvation Army, Metropolitan Ministries and the Hillsborough County Foster Parents Association.

New volunteers must attend a 45-minute new training before getting started. For more information contact 813-228-9549 or go to http://www.volunteertampabay.com.

10. Feed the hungry with Meals on Wheels of Tampa

Each day, the local Meals on Wheels branch delivers 530 meals to homebound people in need. Volunteers help assemble and deliver hot and nutritious meals

The Meals on Wheels office is located at 550 W. Hillsborough Ave. For more information call 238-8410 or go to www.mealsonwheelstampa.com.

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