Tried and true hands-on volunteer opportunities

March 31, 2015

Many years ago, when I was the Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the conference, I used to field phone calls from persons outside of Minnesota. They would tell me they had a youth group coming to visit the Mall of America and wondered if I could I tell them about a volunteer opportunity they might participate in while in town. Depending on their interest, a few options were suggested. I still get similar calls, many from within our state. It seems people are always looking for “tried and true” hands-on mission opportunities. There are dozens of them available, but here are a few possibilities loosely categorized by type and area.

Local one-day opportunities for families:

Matthew 25 food distribution is a ministry of Spirit River Community UMC in Isanti; it distributes fresh produce and groceries to the community on the second Saturday of each month. (Contact Rev. Jim Crecelius at 763-413-6869 or

Feed My Starving Children packs and ships meals to hungry children and families in 70 countries throughout the world. Volunteers are needed six days a week at three sites in the Twin Cities area. (Visit or call 763-951-7307.)

Simpson Shelter serves a meal to the homeless in Minneapolis every morning and night of the year. (Visit or call 612-874-0306.)

Local one-day opportunities for youth and adults:

Emma Norton Services in St. Paul provides housing and support services to women, children, and youth overcoming homelessness, mental illness, and chemical dependency. Volunteers are needed to tutor, help in the office, paint, and more on a regular basis as the organization ministers to transitional women and their families. (Visit or call 651-224-1329.)

North UMC’s clothing closet in Minneapolis gives clothing to residents in need on three Saturdays and one Monday each month. Volunteers are always needed. (Call 612-522-4497.)

Personal Energy Transport (P.E.T.) Mobility Project in Minneapolis builds and ships personal energy transports (three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchairs with hauling capacity) to persons with disabilities in 80 countries. Woodworking volunteers are needed.  (Visit or call 651-261-2344.)

Local and national week-long opportunities:

Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids hosts a week in June for families who want to serve in rural Minnesota. Volunteers work in the area during the day doing clean-up and light construction work in and stay at the camp at night. (Call the camp at 218-732-4713.)

STORM Camp provides service to others Faribault and Marshall area each summer. Teams of youth and young adults spend a week doing clean-up and light construction work. (Visit

Urban CROSS provides service to others in the St. Paul area each summer. Teams of youth and young adults spend a week doing clean-up and light construction work. (Visit or call 651-774-8736.)

Appalachia Service Project serves individuals and families in five states. Volunteers, ages 14 and up, serve for a week during the summer months doing clean-up and light construction work. (Visit

Mountain T.O.P. serves individuals and families and Tennessee. Volunteers, ages 14 and up, serve for a week during the summer months. (Visit

Spirit Lake Ministry Center in North Dakota hosts youth and adult volunteers to serve on weekly work teams in the summer. Arrangements can be made for families also. (Visit

Tree of Life Ministries serves individuals and families on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Volunteers, ages 14 and up, are wanted to serve for a week in the summer. (Visit or call 605-856-4266.)

Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois, works with volunteers of all ages to sort and pack UMCOR relief supplies. Volunteers stay in a dorm on campus. (Visit or call 217-483-7911.)

UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana hosts volunteers year-round to sort and pack relief supplies and serve the elderly in the area. (Call 800-814-8765.)

International opportunities:

Work team trips of youth and adults travel each year to Haiti (coordinated by Pat Toschak, or 507-438-6429), Kenya (, Jamaica (, and Costa Rica (

World Beat Connection takes youth and adult volunteer music teams to Jamaica every February. (Contact

The Minnesota Conference’s partnership with Vietnam will provide opportunities for youth and adult teams to travel to Vietnam to work with orphans there; those trips are scheduled to begin this fall. (E-mail or call 612-230-6129.)

There are many other ways to become involved in healing a broken world. These are just a few. You can connect with your local food shelf anytime, as help will always be needed there. Or call a local school in your area; leaders there would be glad to suggest ways for you to volunteer. If you’d like more ideas, contact me at

Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058