January 14, 2020 Volunteering

Volunteer in Philly: Run, garden, cook, build, and more ways to do good

Tyger Williams/ Staff Photographer

Monday (Jan. 20) marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and tens of thousands of people will take part in the 25th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. The event is, according to organizers, the largest event of its kind in the nation. To celebrate King’s legacy, organizations throughout the region welcome volunteers to join them in a day of giving back through various community projects. To get involved, visit mlkdayofservice.org for a list of opportunities by location and details on how to register.

But if you’re inspired to turn volunteering into an ongoing activity, the city is filled with nonprofits looking for help year-round. We’ve highlighted a few inspiring groups to get you started.

Run, to help fight homelessness

Back on My Feet

The mission: Back on My Feet aims to combat homelessness using group jogs to restore people’s confidence, strength, and self-esteem. The group recruits members at homeless and residential facilities. Those who commit to 30 days of early-morning runs and achieve 90% attendance can join the professional-development program, which includes job-skill and financial-literacy classes.

Get involved: Prime for early birds, Back on My Feet gathers at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at five Philadelphia locations. You can sign up to run or walk (all levels welcome) alongside members on a 1- to 5-mile course, providing support and encouragement along the way. Volunteers are encouraged to commit to showing up once a week, and have to complete a 60-minute orientation before joining.

Headquarters: 100 S. Broad St., Suite 2136, meeting locations vary across Center City, South Philly, West Philly, Point Breeze, and North Philly, 215-772-1080, backonmyfeet.org


Back on My Feet seeks to help homeless individuals rebuild their lives through the discipline of running.

Garden, to help the hungry

Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP)

The mission: Philadelphia Orchard Project plants and supports community orchards across the city in partnership with schools, churches, community gardens, and other nonprofits. The harvests, or proceeds from any sales, benefit low-income communities.

Get involved: Green thumb or not, you can sign up online to partake in a range of events, including tree plantings, pruning sessions, and workshops about orchard care. All ages and skill levels are welcome. For a deeper commitment, volunteers can join a POP committee, which choose and support orchard partners, plan events, and raise money.

Headquarters: 4000 Woodland Ave., 215-724-1247, phillyorchards.org

Do arts and crafts, to help kids with cancer

Project Sunshine

The mission: To cheer up pediatric patients in medical settings

Get involved: Bring back a sense of childhood to kids living in care facilities. Projects include hands-on fun, like crafting homemade slime and lava lamps. Volunteers also keep patients company so that they don’t feel isolated in a hospital-like setting. Individual volunteers work with kids at the Pediatric Specialty Care in East Falls. To get started, complete an online application and webinar training. Project Sunshine also offers separate volunteer options for college students and corporate groups.

Volunteer location (for individuals): Pediatric Specialty Care at Philadelphia, 3301 Scotts Lane, projectsunshine.org


Project Sunshine volunteers act as companions for pediatric patients, leading them in creative activities, like making homemade lava lamps and slime.

Take care of dogs and cats, to help homeless pets

Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

The mission: To help save Philadelphia’s homeless pets

Get involved: As a volunteer, you can help with pet adoption efforts, clean the shelters, or take pups out for walks. Commitment and scheduling are flexible and all PAWS locations welcome help. To sign up, fill out an application online and complete an orientation session.

Locations vary, 215-238-9901 (Old City location), phillypaws.org

Meet people over a beer, to help a variety of causes

Volunteering Untapped PHL

The mission: Born out of Baltimore, Volunteering Untapped was created to make it easy for young professionals to give back to their communities. The Philadelphia chapter partners with a different nonprofit organization each month. The group meets to volunteer through activities like cleaning up parks, cooking at food banks, and making arts-and-crafts kits for children in hospitals. After each volunteer session, the group gathers to eat, drink, and network.

Get involved: The group meets for organized volunteer activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Dubbed the “Afterjawn,” the social gathering takes place immediately following at a nearby bar. Those who want to get involved can register online.

Locations vary, vu-phl.org


On the second Saturday of each month, Volunteering Untapped PHL partners with a different nonprofit, ranging from those focused on sustainability to health and human services organizations to education-driven groups.

Enjoy art, to help people with dementia

ARTZ Philadelphia

The mission: To use creative expression and art-based activities to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caretakers

Getting involved: ARTZ volunteers help facilitators with hands-on projects, art discussions at museums and care communities, and behind-the-scenes work, like planning the organization’s annual art exhibition. Most activities take place on weekday mornings and afternoons. Interested volunteers must submit an online application and complete a four-session training program.

Headquarters: 1229 Chestnut St., #188, 610-721-1606, artzphilly.org


ARTZ Philadelphia was created to support and enhance the quality of life for individuals with dementia and their caretakers through creative expression and art-based activities.

Build stuff, to help families in need

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia

The mission: To build and repair homes, working with families

Getting involved: Pick up a hammer alongside Habitat staff, future Habitat homeowners, and Philadelphia homeowners, or help with inventory and customer service in the ReStore, Habitat’s donation center and reuse store. Construction and repair work happens Wednesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ReStore opportunities are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers must fill out an application online and commit to at least one, full-time slot.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore: 2318 Washington Ave., 215-739-9300


Habitat for Humanity volunteers pose for a photo at the beginning of a project to complete six rowhouses in Point Breeze.

Prep food, to help people who are sick


The mission: Formally known as Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, MANNA provides free, nourishing meals to those with life-threatening illnesses, like cancer, HIV/AIDS, and heart disease.

Getting involved: Volunteers at MANNA help with everything from chopping vegetables to baking pies to prepping, packaging, and delivering meals. Some volunteers also assist with event preparation, community outreach, and general office work. To get involved, fill out an online application and attend a 45-minute orientation session.

Headquarters: 420 N. 20th St., 215-496-2662, mannapa.org


For Mangano (left), Justin Freyer (middle), and Michelle Master (right), make pies for annual “Pie in the Sky” fundraiser held by MANNA. MANNA delivers meals to clients living with serious illnesses across the Greater Philadelphia area.