On Dating: Volunteer Opportunities as a Way of Meeting People

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009

If "doing good" and "dating more" both hold spots at the top of your priority list, you might want to show up at Lacey Woods Park in Arlington on Saturday.

And be prepared to spend some time in the dirt.

Two of the area's socially focused volunteer groups are sponsoring a one-day effort to rid the park of invasive weeds before spring comes into bloom. And if a little romance blossoms, too, well, all the better.

With bank accounts shrinking and community needs growing, now is the perfect time to investigate altruistic opportunities to meet people.

Organizations such as Single Volunteers of DC and One Brick, which are helping with the Lacey Woods cleanup, work by bringing folks together through service projects and fostering a low-pressure environment for interaction.

"A very, very large number of people who come to us just don't want to volunteer, but want to broaden their social circle," explains Clive Charlwood, executive director of One Brick. The San Francisco-based company with chapters across the nation was founded during the last recession, when out-of-work techies were looking for cheaper ways to meet people while doing something constructive.

One Brick and Single Volunteers of DC, which has been operating in the area for almost 12 years, both host a range of service activities: bagging lunches at a food pantry or picking up trash along the Anacostia. So there's self-selecting quality to the events, says Nikki Clifford, co-director of Single Volunteers. Both groups usually wrap up each project by going out for lunch or a drink just to prolong the time people spend together. And organizers of both say developing friendships, as much as relationships, is central to their mission. (One Brick, by the way, is open to all, while Single Volunteers really does limit itself to the unattached.)

There are no fees and no commitments, though commitments of a different sort sometimes do result. Clifford met her husband through Single Volunteers; they're celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary this month.

For more information on upcoming volunteer opportunities, or on One Brick's "Anti-Recession Happy Hour" in Bethesda on Wednesday, visit http://www.onebrick.org or http://www.svdc.org.

Got a D.C. dating tip or rant? We're all ears: dating@washpost.com.

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