Many of us go through “camping” seasons of life. It often begins by tenting with toddlers happy to find a bug to RV camping with teenagers who have to be dragged away from their video games. Then comes the season (empty-nesting time perhaps?) where RVing takes on a different focus, and you look for ways to add a purpose and some meaning to your free time.
And, in the aftermath of natural disasters like springtime tornadoes in the Midwest and horrific fall hurricanes like Sandy on the east coast, we especially find ourselves thinking about ways to lend a hand. The following organizations afford such opportunities—and all welcome your time and expertise.
The Red Cross
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook major volunteer organizations. The Red Cross incorporates volunteers in all it programs, and its website lets you indicate which volunteer areas you’re interested in—ranging from working with animals to helping immigrants to assisting with disaster relief efforts, of course. (My husband and I took advantage of the extensive Red Cross training programs and soon found ourselves running a disaster relief shelter after a major flood.) You could start out by volunteering on a local level and then get in your RV and help out around the country.
Habitat for Humanity
We’ve all heard about this agency that builds new homes for low-income families. Did you know they have a separate division for RVers called RV Care-A-Vanners? Habitat projects usually involve 8 to 20 volunteers working for two-week periods. You might help build a house or assist with repairing one in a disaster-relief effort. You’ll work around seven hours a day, with lunch provided, and Habitat staffers will help you find a place to park your RV.
Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees (DOVE)
This operation is connected with the Red Cross and is a sub-group of the membership RV organization known as the Escapees. Never heard of the Escapees? Boy, are you missing out! It supports and educates anyone interested in RVing; it also publishes a magazine, provides access to low-cost campgrounds and a mail-forwarding service, and has more than 32,000 loyal members. You might end up working at an Escapees CARE facility, a full-scale adult daycare facility for RVers needing assistance. Most people getting assistance from CARE programs have their RVs parked nearby, complete with wheelchair ramps, if needed. The facilities have nurses on duty, provide nutritious meals, and help schedule doctor’s appointments.
Servants on Wheels Ever Ready (SOWERS)
This nondenominational ministry is geared toward retired or semi-retired people who love to travel in their RVs while helping others. The group asks that you volunteer for 72 hours a month, which is a six-hour day, four days a week for three weeks out of the month. You’ll work at camps, churches, orphanages, etc. Most of the jobs are involved with construction and maintenance.
National Parks Volunteer Opportunities
Like being outside? Want to be around other like-minded people who enjoy camping? Then volunteering at a national park might be just the right situation for you. Many RVers find they can stretch their camping budget by volunteering at locations ranging from the Grand Canyon to a tiny lighthouse in Maine. You can select the location and type of park that interests you the most. Duties could include checking in campers, leading tours, helping with construction, or working in a gift shop. Simply go to the Volunteer.gov site, and fill out the on-line form to narrow down your preferred location duties.
Bureau of Land Management
Here’s another volunteer opportunity for those who enjoy the outdoors. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) might best be described as a small agency with a big mission, which is: To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. This also means many volunteer opportunities exist for all ages. You might find yourself working with wild horses or burros, rebuilding a trail, helping preserve a ghost town, or leading a tour in one of the 800 caves that the BLM oversees! Volunteer for 250 hours, and you’ll receive a year-long pass valid for free admission to any BLM or national park.