By Siobhan DeRemer
There’s nothing like overindulgence at the holidays (or perhaps knowing so many at the holidays that need our help) that makes me want to get out and see what impact I can make in the community. Of course, our help is needed throughout the year, so we are planning to highlight local institutions each month that are very much in need of volunteers and people willing to commit their time to making the Lehigh Valley a sweeter place to live for all. Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution to get yourself out of the house more and meet people in this area? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to start volunteering but just need local info. That’s why we’re here!
For the month of March, we start with a cause near and very dear to all our of hearts here: our animal companions. Since March brings us National Puppy Day on March 23rd, Love Your Pet Day was back on February 20, and Pet Day (April 11) and Pet Month (May) aren’t too far off, we want to highlight some organizations in the Lehigh Valley that need your help and give you some amazing chances to help your favorite four-legged friends.
Since we know many of you have kids and would love to bring them along to your volunteer time or want a fun way to give your kids a way to volunteer in the area, we’ve marked and mentioned those organizations that are kid-friendly below. Check out the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley for more animal-friendly options in your area. And be sure to check back here for more volunteering chances each month!
**Watch for animal shelter and rescue opportunities in the future, but if you want to check some local ones out soon, check out the Sanctuary at Haafsville and the Center for Animal Health & Welfare.**
Gress Mountain Ranch (Kid-Friendly)
The 15 acres here in Orefield are 100% volunteer run and provide a home to a number of animals providing therapy, animal and environmental education, and training for all those in need. The alpaca, goats, horses, cats, and dogs here are always happy to see eager volunteers (and even interns) for groundskeeping and animal care. Be sure to check when you call as some activities may be better than others for kids.
This therapeutic horse farm in Nazareth, one of only 7 accredited centers in Pennsylvania, provides accessible therapy to individuals with behavioral, emotional, and health-based needs. Volunteers may assist with therapy sessions, care for horses, or even provide office and grounds assistance. No prior horse experience is necessary, but all volunteers must be 14 years or older. Check out training dates here and fill out a form to get involved.
The Lehigh Valley’s biggest animal sanctuary is always looking for volunteers to help manage the 200,000 annual visitors to the Zoo. You can spend time next to the otters and the penguins while also educating and guiding visitors. Great for groups/families with older kids, too. Fill out the interest form here and get started! For smaller kids who may not be able to volunteer in person, you can adopt one of the LV Zoo animals and donate to the conservation and education efforts of the Zoo (and get an adorable plush and certificate to boot!).
For those who can’t own a dog but are in need of their companionship and joy, the therapy dogs from POYC are there to help. Volunteers and their pups must undergo a small evaluation and test for temperament and behavior (mostly for the dogs, but it helps if you’re friendly, too!) and provide visits to improve the quality of life of those at nursing homes, schools, libraries, and hospitals. If you have a dog you think fits the bill, check out how you can start helping others with his or her furry love.
Tails of Valor (Kid-Friendly options)
You can volunteer in a number of ways for this group based in Coopersburg that raises and trains puppies to assist veterans with PTSD and physical disabilities. Help a service member return to civilian life by becoming a puppy raiser, providing a foster home, trainer, or community educator. Get your family involved by teaching kids the valuable ways training a service animal can be helpful to the community and especially the military community.
For friends willing to travel just over the border into NJ, this horse farm, formerly located in Bangor, has many volunteer opportunities for maintenance, fundraising, sidewalking with horses and clients during therapy sessions, and even instructor options for experienced horse lovers.
Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center (Older Kid-Friendly)
A bit farther to the west in New Ringgold (about 40 minutes northwest of Allentown), this horse therapy center is looking for teenagers and adults to help clients with sidewalking and those with a bit more experience can be trained to work with clients and handle the horses (and ponies!) during sessions.
Flint Hill Farm (Kid-Friendly)
This educational center and working farm in Coopersburg provides living arrangements for those who wish to learn to farm or have a personal agricultural experience. In addition to needing volunteers for carpentry, tours, gardening, and office work, there are many opportunities for milking goats and cows and tending to gathering eggs. Suitable for families and individuals.