Helping Out

Where to volunteer for gay, lesbian, bi and trans organizations in the DC region

If you know you want to help, but you’re not sure exactly where to start, look to The Center, the D.C. area’s LGBT community center. The Center offers a monthly volunteer night on the first Monday of every month.

”All of our initiatives are volunteer-led in some way,” says David Mariner, The Center’s executive director.

The Center is the umbrella organization sponsoring, to varying degrees, other groups such as Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), the HIV/AIDS Working Group, and Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE-DC).

”Those groups are all chaired by community volunteers who kind of chart the directions of those groups,” Mariner says, adding that lower commitment-level volunteer opportunities such as packing safer-sex kits or dropping in to help with office work, are available.

Similarly, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) needs help with administrative functions, data entry and yard work.

”You’ll be giving to LGBT youth, and [adult volunteers] can serve as role models and mentors,” says SMYAL’s Amena Johnson.

Much like SMYAL, the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM) offers volunteer opportunities to those seeking to mentor and educate students.

”There is training involved,” says Mary Karstens, volunteer resources manager at NOVAM, whose greatest volunteer need is for drivers to deliver meals and transport clients to medical appointments. ”We rely on volunteers like you wouldn’t believe,” Karstens continues. ”Since we are a nonprofit, almost all the money we get goes to our programs. So we rely heavily on volunteers to do the work that we do.”

Whitman-Walker Clinic also serves the HIV/AIDS community. Volunteering at the clinic involves basic administrative work and community outreach projects. The clinic also has training for volunteers to provide HIV testing and counseling.

”We’ve got about a hundred volunteers who are trained in that area,” says volunteer manager David Mallory, ”but we could always use more.”

The clinic also relies on volunteers to help at its big events. Last year more than 500 volunteers helped with AIDS Walk in October.

”People who are looking for just a weekend of helping and assisting the clinic, that’s a great opportunity there,” Mallory says.

At Transgender Health Empowerment Inc., volunteering could mean working at the Drop-In Center, serving as a driver, helping clients with laundry, or pitching-in in the kitchen.

”We’re a small organization with a small budget,” says Brian Watson. ”We don’t have a lot of money to do a lot of the things that some organizations can pay people to do.”

That includes painting and yard work at the Wanda Alston House, the District’s only transitional residence dedicated to homeless LGBT youth.

For information about volunteer opportunities with The Center, call 202-682-2245 or visit thedccenter.org/volunteer.html.

For SMYAL, call 202-567-3154, e-mail amena.johnson@smyal.org or visit smyal.org/volunteer.php.

For NOVAM, call 703-533-5505, ext. 14, e-mail GetInvolved@novam.org or visit novam.org for a downloadable volunteer application.

For WWC, call 202-745-7000 or visit wwc.org/volunteer for a list of volunteer opportunities and an application.

For THE, call 202-636-1646, e-mail info@theincdc.org or visit theincdc.org.

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