Top Places to Volunteer in DC

Written by Jesse Schaefer, Manager – Institute on Philanthropy & Voluntary Service 

SS2With over 12,000 nonprofits in the DC metro area, the choices are practically endless for volunteers looking to give of their time. Each year, as part of its Best of DC series, the Washington City Paper asks readers to vote for the Best Places to Volunteer: here are the 2014 top picks. We’ll add three more organizations to this list: Washington Parks & People, So Others Might Eat, and Capital Area Food Bank.

Service is a very important component of all our DC Internships programs. Students complete a service project in their first few weeks in Washington, as a way to get to know and give back to the city they’ll be calling home. Our Institute on Philanthropy & Voluntary Service (IPVS) focuses expressly on service and is for students passionate about affecting change in their communities.

Washington Parks & People

  • Washington Parks & People leads greening initiatives across the city — land reclamation, native reforestation, watershed restoration, public health and fitness programming, urban agriculture, and green job training — to help revitalize once forgotten communities. Their first project was Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, once DC’s most violent park and now one of the region’s safest.
  • How you can help: Revitalize and transform parks, playgrounds, trails, streams, forests, school yards, community gardens, and urban farms.
  • Who can volunteer: The organization welcomes individuals, families, school groups, and organizations. For more information, visit

So Others Might Eat (SOME)

  • SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that helps the poor and homeless of our nation’s capital. Their work aims both to meet immediate daily needs (food, clothing, and health care), and to offer services (affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling) to help break the cycle of homelessness.
  • How you can help: Assist with landscaping, serving meals or tutoring. They even welcome professionals in the healthcare and legal fields to lend their services.
  • Who can volunteer: Both individuals and groups are welcome, including youth age 13 and above. For more information, visit

Capital Area Food Bank

  • The Capital Area Food Bank acquires and distributes food through partner agencies, and educates the community about hunger and nutrition, in efforts to feed the hungry in the Washington metro area.
  • How you can help: Choose to sort and pack food at the warehouse, distribute goods directly at schools or community centers, or cultivate produce in the urban garden.
  • Who can volunteer: The Food Bank can accommodate individuals and groups, including school groups of children ages 12 and over. For more information, visit

To learn more about IPVS and begin an application, visit

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