Retirement doesn’t mean you have to slow down or give up on making an impact. In fact, your golden years are a golden opportunity to create positive change in the community.

Food Banks
Food insecurity is a real problem for many families both locally and nationally. Donating to a food bank can be a great way to help those in need access fresh, affordable food, but many of these organizations also count on volunteers. Circle of Concern relies on volunteers to help operate both its pantry and office. Tasks include meeting with clients, answering the phones, stocking the warehouse, troubleshooting technology, bookkeeping and more. St. Louis Area Foodbank needs volunteers to help in its Repackaging Center and assist with mobile food distributions. You can also use Feeding America to connect with more local food banks that could use your time and efforts.

Animal Shelters
Helping at an animal shelter can be a great way to have some fun with furry friends while giving back. If hands-on activity with an animal isn’t for you, many of these organizations can use support in other ways as well. The Humane Society of Missouri needs in-shelter volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, including dog walking, administrative support, cleaning, laundry and more. There are also different local rescues geared toward specific needs, such as working with a certain animal or breed. The St. Louis Senior Dog Project specializes in helping find homes for older dogs. Along with looking for foster homes, it needs volunteers for vet appointments, adoption events, home visits and more.

Working with Kids
Why not use your experience to help the next generation grow and thrive? The Assistance League of St. Louis is an all-volunteer organization that offers a variety of programs that support local youth—from outfitting them in school uniforms to providing athletic shoes to fostering a love of reading. Make-A-Wish Missouri & Kansas helps make wishes come true for critically ill children. It’s in need of WishMakers to work with kids and families to make magical experiences possible. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri gives adults the chance to make a tangible impact in the life of a young person. The nonprofit pairs 5- to 17-year-olds (Littles) with caring adult volunteers (Bigs).

Community Gardens
If you’ve got a green thumb, put it to good use! Volunteering in a community garden can help get you outdoors to enjoy the fresh air while helping to grow good. Seed St. Louis has volunteer opportunities in both community and school gardens. Urban Harvest STL has a variety of gardens and farms across the region that could use support. Forest ReLeaf of Missouri has a community tree nursery with more than 20,000 trees and just two foresters overseeing their care. Volunteers are needed for planting, watering and weeding at the nursery as well as other events.

Cultural Organizations
Use volunteering as an opportunity to explore subjects you already love or have an interest in. You can donate your time to uplifting the arts in St. Louis, preserving local history and more. COCA needs volunteer ushers to make its performances run smoothly. In August, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis could use ushers and people in the box office—plus, you get to see the performance for free. If history interests you more, Missouri Historical Society is looking for greeters to work at Soldier’s Memorial. Tasks include greeting guests upon arrival, providing information on upcoming programs and current gallery content, and processing transactions for the on-site gift shop.

benefits of volunteering

  • A Stronger Community: Volunteering takes direct action to address problems that are important to St. Louis. You’re also working with others who want to improve the community. The more connections made between stakeholders, the stronger the community is.
  • Social Opportunities: Speaking of connections, volunteering is a great way to meet new people. It also can be a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with friends and family. For retirees, it can help fill the social void left from not regularly interacting with co-workers.
  • Improved Self Esteem: Research has shown that altruistic behaviors may raise your sense of self worth. This is likely because helping others often pushes us outside our comfort zone, so when we do it, we feel a greater sense of accomplishment.
  • Reduced Dementia Risk: A study from Indiana University looked at more than 64,000 subjects who were 60 and older. Those who did volunteer work for 100 hours a year—less than two hours a week—scored around 6% higher in cognitive testing than those who did not volunteer.
  • New Skill Development: There are endless ways to volunteer, and each of them comes with a different skill set. You can develop new creative skills by crafting needed items, or use a project to work on teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning and more.
  • A More Active Lifestyle: Volunteer activity can have big benefits on your physical health. In a study of adults 55 and older, the National Institutes of Health found that volunteering reduced mortality risk by 24% when adjusted effect size.
  • Better Mental Health: According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering releases dopamine, which results in people feeling more relaxed. It’s also associated with a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can have further stress-relieving effects.