Archived Story

Doris Higgins: Improve your community — be a volunteer

Published 11:03pm Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In cooperation with the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan, the Niles Daily Star will publish opportunities for volunteers each week. To find out about these or other volunteer opportunities, please call 983-0912 in the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area, 683-5464 in the Niles area; visit our website at; or e-mail us at for further information. To arrange an appointment, please call ahead. Appointments do not constitute an obligation to accept a volunteer opportunity. The center is a United Way agency.

Spotlight of the Week

The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens. — Alexis de Tocqueville. As you think about Independence Day and democracy remember that volunteerism is one of the foundations the United States was built on. Everyday individuals, just like you, do things big and small to make our communities strong and caring.  If you need help figuring out how you can make a difference visit the Volunteer Center online at or call 983-0912 or 683-5464 or e-mail at


• Build strong kids, strong families and strong communities at your local YMCA. Contact Sharon at the Volunteer Center to learn more.

• The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Southwest Michigan wants a website to meet local needs. As a website designer for them, you will design the website background and theme, design a method of inputting recurrent meetings, add special events to the site, etc.  Work on your own schedule.

• Who mentored you? School supplies are already showing up in the stores and mentoring programs are interviewing potential mentors for the fall. Contact the Volunteer Center to receive a copy of our current Mentoring booklet listing mentoring opportunities in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. One such program is Second Chance Mentoring (The Opportunity Center). They are setting up a new mentoring program to work with at risk youth from throughout the area that have spent time at the Juvenile Center in Berrien Springs. You can help these young people turn their lives around. Contact Debra at the Volunteer Center to discuss this and other mentoring programs so you can decide which one best meets your schedule and interests.

• Did you attend any local graduations? Local high school students are donating blood at an inspiring rate … how about you?

Berrien County Chapter of the American Red Cross

For a complete listing, visit

Michigan Blood

• Thursday, July 14 — Knights of Columbus, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, 509 West Fourth St., Buchanan, 3 to 7 p.m.

• Saturday, July 16 — Sunny Brook RV Resort, Family Room, 68300 Phoenix, South Haven, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For a complete listing, visit

Adults and youth

• Wonderful, unique volunteer opportunities await you at the Michigan Flywheelers Museum in South Haven. They are an organization of dedicated volunteers working to restore and preserve antique gas and steam engines and tractors. As a volunteer mechanic you will restore antique tractors and other farm equipment. Volunteers generally work together on the engines on Wednesdays and over the weekends. They also are looking for an artist to donate their time and skill to create a one-of-a kind item for their gift shop. The art needs to be antique tractor or engine related. The museum will purchase supplies.

• Looking for a garden to play around in? Not all museum work is indoors. At the North Berrien Historical Museum in Coloma you can volunteer in the garden by planning, planting and doing seasonal upkeep of the gardens.

• Are you a kid at heart who likes to play with trains? Do you enjoy nature, history and the art of miniature landscaping and scale buildings designed with all natural materials? Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles has the opportunity for you. You will get to monitor the Railway Garden G-scale trains, answer visitor questions and do some light gardening such as trimming, weeding and watering of the exhibit. This is a special garden that welcomes enthusiastic volunteers wanting to share the fun with visitors of all ages. Docent training is provided and two- or three-hour shifts are available Tuesday through Sunday. At least 18 more volunteers are desired.

• Looking to use office skills you already have or to build your resume for a future job?  Currently on the Volunteer Center’s website there are openings listed for office/receptionist help at the following organizations: Memorial Hospital, The Salvation Army in Niles, Box Factory for the Arts, Fernwood, Van Buren United Way and the Maritime Museum in South Haven.

• Which animal is your favorite to ride on the carousel? Or do you love to eat popcorn and watch all the kids having fun? The Silver Beach Carousel is run by volunteers who take tokens, pop the popcorn and make sure the kids are safe. They are running many shifts are counting on you to keep the carousel running. Sign up to today and keep the carousel going round and round.

• How to pay the bills — this is always a concern for local nonprofits. Think about a cause you care about and then contact the Volunteer Center or visit our website at to pick an organization with a mission that matches your passion.  If you feel passionate about helping people with special needs, Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) in Watervliet would love for you to work with other volunteers on fundraising projects. TEC is an all volunteer run organization and it costs $300 a month to care for a horse and they have five horses that need to be maintained on a year-round basis.

• Would you like to receive regular updates on volunteer opportunities? “Like” the Volunteer Center on Facebook and learn all the great ways you can get involved. Don’t forget to post pictures of projects and ways you get involved and invite others to volunteer with your favorite organization.


Join other youth volunteers for activity fun at Lakeland Continuing Care in St. Joseph from 2 to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of the month (Aug. 6). As a volunteer you will interact and help facilitate various activities with residents which may include wheelchair basketball, bowling, and ring toss. You may also play table top games such as scrabble or just talking. Contact Callie at the Volunteer Center for more information. RSVPs appreciated but not required.

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